By Mbatjiua Ngavirue Windhoek President of the Namibian Employer’s Federation (NEF), Harold Pupkewitz says Namibia is suffering from “skills anorexia”. Pupkewitz said this in a report presented to the annual general meeting of the NEF held at a local hotel in Windhoek on Wednesday. The country is so short of skills that it does not even have the capacity to train and develop the skills required to maintain the economy at its present level, nor meet the challenges of Vision 2030. He compared Namibia to other countries such as South Africa and Botswana, which he said were taking positive steps to attract foreign skills, “…not as an ‘insult’ to their citizens as is implied in Namibia, but in recognition of the critical value of such skills”. Pupkewitz cited research done by a Professor Ghai in Kenya, which found that one additional skilled person creates up to 25 jobs for lesser skilled people as wealth trickles down through the economy. “Yet we are allowing skills to leave and put barriers on skills importation – can we allow xenophobia or misguided understanding of global competitiveness to stifle economic growth?” The official unemployment rate in Namibia has risen to 36 percent and will continue to rise inexorably until government takes responsibility for creating an attractive investment and employment climate. He warned that Namibia’s socio-political stability was threatened by the ever-growing ranks of urbanised, poorly educated unemployed youth. “This issue demands serious attention now and co-operation by all social partners in facing the problems of unemployment and the moral imperative for employment creation,” he urged. “There have been more than enough conferences, commissions, workshops and papers – what we need now is action by the government.” He praised Minister of Education Nangolo Mbumba for recognising the scale of the education crisis by launching the Education and Training Sector Improvement Programme (ETSIP) in April this year. “Until such time as ETSIP bears fruit, and if we want to stimulate economic development, we have no alternative but to facilitate the importation of skills,” he added.
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