Demographics at the basis of the Namibian economy
By Dr. John Steytler.
Recently my son Roelf commented on the fact that the global population passed the 8 billion mark on November 15, 2022. Only 14 years ago, when he was born, there were only 6.8 billion people, that’s a huge increase. As an economist and as the former Statistician-General, I get intrigued and excited by statistics like this. What does this population increase mean for us as humans? The global population has grown and looks to continue to grow before it will eventually contracts.
This is where demographics come in. Demographics are statistics that describe populations and their characteristics. Demographic analysis is the study of a population based on factors such as age, race, and sex. On a global scale, we need to know the impact of population growth, but we need to know about Namibia as well. We need to know who inhabits the Namibian House, how many people inhabit it, and what their age, gender, and socio-economic status are. Numbers and statistics reveal so much and yet, we often struggle to collect the relevant numbers and timely statistics as a nation. Which makes our efforts and drive for nation-building that much harder.
Allow me to explain. In a household, we check how much money is coming in and how much is going out. How much is being spent on mortgages, rent, healthcare, food, education, and clothing? If we are lucky there may be some leftovers for more fun activities, such as holidays, and perhaps even some money can be saved up. We need to plan as a household if we don’t want to end up with ‘too much month at the end of our money.’ The same planning is carried out by countries and Namibia is no different. We even speak of the Namibian House, within an economic context. If we look through the lens of the United Nations 2030 Development Plan, and specifically the Leave No One Behind (LNOB), principle, up-to-date demographics are vital.
Consider the Namibian House, we want it to be welcoming, safe, and with room for everyone, regardless of colour, creed, and socio-economic standing. This is a beautiful sentiment that the Government has been working to achieve, however, do we know how many people inhabit the Namibian House? These statistics formed the foundation of our National Development Plans as well as our Harambee Prosperity Plan.
The study of demographics and collection of data form the basis of Namibia’s vision for the future. Just like we anticipate how many people will be living in a house and knowing for how many people we need to buy food, we need to know for how many people we as a nation need to cater for. When going to the supermarket we base our shopping list on how many people are in the house at this exact moment. We don’t do shopping based on how many people lived in the house five years ago. That data is out of date. This concept can be extrapolated to Namibia as a nation. Since Independence in 1990, our country’s population has almost doubled, we, therefore, need to plan for that in all aspects of life. From infrastructure projects, and urban and rural planning as well as to food security and health facilities to name a few. The right data sets and statistics form the basis of potent planning tools.
Namibia is standing on the precipice of a new dawn. Oil and gas and renewable energy sources are about to transform our country forever. We need to be ready as a nation and anticipate where and what the needs of the Namibian House and its inhabitants will be. Not just next year, or the year after that. We need to look and analyze for the long-term and channel resources where they are needed most. If we have up-to-date demographics, we can map out our future as a nation.