By Emma Kakololo
Namibia’s economic competitiveness has been ranked 88th out of 128 countries in the world, just behind Botswana which is ranked 83, according to the African Competitiveness Report jointly published by the African Development Bank (ADB), the World Bank and the World Economic Forum.
The results are disappointing when compared to some of the other 29 African countries that were examined against the global market. Countries such as Tunisia (29), South Africa (46), Mauritius (58), and Egypt (65) emerged amongst the best economic performers with regard to competitiveness.
ADB’s Principal Research Economist, Dr Peter Ondiege, at a press briefing held on Tuesday in Windhoek remarked that although Namibia was ranked 88th overall, there were certain areas where the country was highly competitive especially in the areas of institutional environment (ranked 49th).
“The quality of the country’s infrastructure is also good by regional standards. In particular, aspects of the transport infrastructure such as the quality of railroads (35th) and ports (30th) are highly rated, although telephone lines remain scarce (94th).
“Financial markets are also sophisticated by regional standards (57th), with relatively easy access to loans (45th), from a relatively sound banking sector (44th), and some venture capital available (50th), although raising funds by issuing shares on the local stock market is deemed difficult (89th).”
He stressed that the country’s poor health indicators and poor education system were critical constraints to businesses in the country. The report concludes that Namibia’s health indicators were extremely worrying, including infant mortality (94th), life expectancy (54 years, placing the country108th) and high prevalence rates of malaria, tuberculosis and HIV.
In addition, educational attainment rates were also extremely low, with primary, secondary and tertiary enrolment rates placing the country 106th, 98th and 102nd respectively. The quality of the educational system is assessed as being among the worst of all countries assessed, ranked 122nd overall.
The country’s labour markets were also rated inefficient with stringent hiring and firing practices (96th), friction in labour-employer relations (105th), and little relation between pay and productivity.
The report called on the country to harness new technologies to improve its productivity levels.
“Companies are not considered sufficiently aggressive in absorbing new technologies (92nd) and Namibia has low penetration rates of new technologies such as cell phones and the Internet.”
Africa Competitiveness Report, the first report on the region’s business environment to leverage knowledge and expertise within the three financial organizations, marking a new level of research cooperation, presents an integrated vision of the policy challenges African nations face as they build a foundation for sustainable growth and prosperity.