GCAP Campaign Demands Accelerated Economic Growth

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By Catherine Sasman WINDHOEK The Global Call Against Poverty (GCAP) Africa campaign has called on national coalitions to put pressure on governments to halve poverty by 2015, as promised by the UN Development Goals. Despite the growth rate of African economies improving from 1.8 percent in 1989 to 5.7 percent, GCAP campaigners bemoan increased poverty on the continent. “We call for more accountability and transparency from our leaders. We also ask that emerging challenges such as mitigating the negative impact of climate change on Africa be addressed, as it is already affecting agricultural production,” said GCAP Africa coordinator, Christophe Zoungrana. The GCAP campaign is said to intensify, with anti-poverty groups in 30 African countries organizing alternative Millennium Development Goal (MDG) reports, host television and radio debates, and meet with policymakers to discuss progress. “Namibia’s small population is not influencing sub-Saharan statistics on achieving the MDGs,” said UNICEF Representative to Namibia, Khin-Sandi Lwin. The biggest challenge to the continent, she said, is the HIV/AIDS pandemic. HIV/AIDS does not only have a detrimental effect on other healthcare efforts, but the burden of caring for orphaned children has shifted significantly to often impoverished grandparents. GCAP Campaign Coordinator for Namibia, Theo Uvanga, said the country has made significant progress in terms of access to basic education, although the educational quality remains a critical challenge. Real progress has also been made to improve maternal health through the government’s primary healthcare services. “To curb poverty and to move closer to the goal of halving poverty by 2015, the Namibian Government should allow a universal basic income grant of N$100 to the unemployed,” he emphasized. Classed as a middle-income country, about 30 percent of the population – mostly black – are considered poor. High unemployment particularly among the youth adds to growing discontent about persistent inequalities. Assessments have established that rural communities feel they are worse off than they were before independence. Rural unemployment stands at 44.7 percent, as opposed to a 29 percent urban unemployment. Uvanga said the government should as a matter of urgency build upon the Government Civic Society Policy, introduced in 2005, for greater civil participation in policy formulation and implementation. Civil society has been lobbying through the Basic Income Grant Coalition for a basic income for all. Civil society programmes of small business programmes support is given upon evidence that small enterprises are tools to enable the unemployed and marginalized to gain access to economic activity. Another challenge put to the government by the GCAP group is for it to improve current support mechanisms. In real terms, said Uvanga, pensions today are 14 percent lower than it was in 1990; and grants for orphans are difficult to obtain. “I believe public accountability and transparency are essential components for economic and social justice. That will have a positive ripple effect on all areas of development,” said Uvanga. “We need public accountability and corruption to be nipped in the bud. Public funds misappropriated should instead have been invested in social welfare programmes.”