We Can Be the Japan of Africa

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By Prof Monish Gunawardana THE purpose of this article is to raise the awareness and ignite a constructive national dialogue on our human development vision that is crafted to transform Namibia into an industrialized nation by 2030. Current Progress Recently, the National Planning Commission developed the policy framework of the vision, secured the political commitments and established a Guiding Coalition to devise the implementation strategy. Furthermore, the Pricewaterhouse Coopers Consultancy has been commissioned to formulate the strategic rationale and maintain an interactive rapport with other stakeholder-communities, including the NPC staff. Vision & Mission: The vision of the nation is the country’s road map customized for the prosperous future that is not the present status of Namibia. Presently, Namibia is a consumer nation that consumes products or services that are produced by other nations. After establishing a digital nervous system (ICP) infrastructure and a high-tech manufacturing base, Namibia will become a wealthy nation with a remarkable human development. This is our hope. The mission statement is the present business scope that is linked to Vision 2030, while the vision statement describes the future scope. Therefore, the mission is to initiate strategic actions to achieve tangible results that were pre-determined in the Vision 2030 declaration. Industrialized Countries Vision 2030 is the engine that converts Namibia into an industrialized world. Then, what is an industrialized nation? Firstly, the Knowledge Based Economy (KBE) is the foundation of these industrialized nations. The Human Development Report – 2005, has classified 57 countries as High Human Development nations. Canada, Ireland, Australia, USA, Norway, Sweden, Germany, Italy, UK, Mexico, Cuba, South Korea, Japan, Malaysia and Singapore are few examples of this group of nations Seychelles (GDP per capita is US$10 232) is the only country falling in Sub-Saharan Africa falling into this Rich Nations group. Sub-Saharan Africa has become increasingly marginalized. Today, the region, with 689 million people, accounts for a smaller share of world exports than Belgium, with 10 million people. Therefore, Namibia should create the export-oriented economic structures from the first phase of Vision 2030. The industrialized nations prepare their youth for global competition by offering mathematics, science, technology and management education through the education system. These techno-youths are the brains of the automated production system. For them, the computer is another simple-like electric kettle. For instance, a housemaid in Japan is familiar with computers, blue-tooth gadgets, robotic-devices and programmable household equipment. Learning from Achievers The industrialized nations employ advanced technology: invest in research to invent state-of-the-art products. By inventing the Apple 1-POD Portable Music/Photo player, Steve Jobs of Apple Computers, brings more wealth to the USA. The 1-POD holds 5 000 songs and 8 000 pictures. This means it can store songs of 250 cassettes that weigh 5kg. But 1-POD weighs only 200 grams! The, innovative high-tech warriors in industrialized countries ensure competitiveness through inventions, guerrilla marketing tactics and strong negotiations techniques. Global Market The current Holcim-Cheetah Cement price war in Namibia is a good example of a market battle. These two warring factions represent two Medium Human Development countries – Brazil and South Africa. Namibia should learn to trade with other industrialized countries of the world. The aging populations in Europe and Japan will reduce their GDP growth, while emerging Asian economies such as China and India with youth and affluent populations, will shift the global economic-center of gravity towards Asia. Namibia’s prevailing excellent relationships with the Asian nations will help her to strengthen her high-tech capacity and sell future industrial products and services to 3 billion customers. Namibian Bill Gates The United States of America has ensured an enabling environment to research and development in science, technology and life sciences. American high-tech warriors and management gurus like Bill Gates, Steve Job, Peter Drucker and Tom Peter have made human life easier through their innovativeness. Hence, we should identify, train and employ young Namibian Bill Gates’s to lead Vision 2030. Through the NDP-3, we should re-engineer the secondary, technical and university education system to produce an internationally benchmarked high-tech workforce that invents new products and services, accelerates economic growth and promotes an export-oriented manufacturing economy. Economic Profile The Human Development Index of Namibia is 125 and its GDP capita is US$6 180. The agriculture and animal husbandry sector maintains nearly 70% of the population. Currently, 35% of the able population is unemployed and 40% of the rural and urban poor live on N$8 per day. As per the recent economic diagnosis of the Standard Bank Group of South Africa, the economic growth rate needs to be speeded up to reduce the poverty of the Namibian masses. The fishing industry that is responsible for 8% of the GDP and 28% of the export earnings since 2004 has begun to shrink. The fuel prices account for 30% of the operational costs of key industries. And, according to the Bank of Namibia’s economic analysis, the diamond industry has performed dismally registering a 34% decrease. Based on the afore-cited facts, revamping the economy to alleviate poverty should be the top activity of the Vision 2030 project. Knowledge-based Society Information technology lays a firm base for the knowledge-based society. There fore, during the NDP-3 transitional period, Unam and the Polytechnic/Technological University should train more and more youths in Mathematics, Information Technology and Micro-electronics. Presently our tertiary education institutes produce consumers and gradates with unmarketable qualifications. We cannot think of a knowledge-based society without computers. The exorbitant price tag of computers has discouraged the people’s participation to establish an industrialized society. The cheapest computer in our market is not less than N$3 000. To ensure the ownership of computers for the masses, let us establish computer-assembling plants or withdraw import/vat duties to imported computers and sell them at cheaper prices. Also, the commercial banks should introduce a loan scheme to purchase computers. Mainstreaming HIV/AIDS To compete with our global competitors Namibia needs a very healthy workforce. Currently, around 20% of our population is living with HIV. We cannot march to an industrialized destination by carrying a lethal virus. Over time, the epidemic will increase production costs, reduce the lifespan of the work-force and halt national and foreign investments. Hence, the National HIV/AIDS Strategic Plan: 2005-2009 and other national projects such as NDP3, ICT, Trade Skill Advancement and Education Reforms should be incorporated into a grand strategic plan and plan of action linked to Vision 2030. Unam Medical School The nation’s health is crucial to establish an industrial society. Moreover, to manage HIV/AIDS we need academically and professional trained medical practitioners. The Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences of Unam (University of Namibia) was established to train medical professionals. However, as of now, this faculty offers only BSc, MSc and Doctorate degrees in Nursing and the BSc degree in Pre-medical Science. Anyhow, it houses reputed academics and adequate infrastructure. Therefore, the corporate sector and multilateral donors should support Unam to establish a fully pledged Medical School. Japan of Africa Namibia enjoys peace, socio-political stability and democracy. She maintains an excellent friendship with the industrialized nations, developing nations and the United Nations. If the Vision 2030 project is managed efficiently and effectively, Namibia has the potential to become the Japan of Africa.