WINDHOEK – Namibia has scored poorly in the new Global Competitiveness Index because of its infant mortality rate and life expectancy. The report was released two days ago by the World Economic Forum in Geneva.
Namibia slipped down five places to the 123rd position on the health sub-pillar of the index, and the World Economic Forum’s report begs Namibia to improve its health and educational systems in order to improve its competitiveness. “The country is ranked low, with high infant mortality and low life expectancy, the result, in large part, of the high rates of communicable diseases,” says the Global Competitiveness Report 2013-2014.
The index ranks Namibia at number seven in Africa, following Botswana at number six.
Namibia’s global competitiveness ranking is at number 90, which is two positions up from the number 92 ranking of last year.
Nevertheless, the health component alone received the low ranking, which comes at a time when Namibia is to present its progress report on the realisation of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to the United Nations General Assembly that is to convene from 23 September onwards. The fourth Millennium Development Goal aims at reducing child mortality. The target, reviewed in April this year, is to reduce by two-thirds, between 1990 and 2015, the under-five mortality rate.
Last month the United Nations (UN) Resident Coordinator in Namibia, Musinga Bandora, singled out child mortality and maternal health as the country’s main challenge in the health sector. “There is no significant reduction in maternal mortality not withstanding Government’s spending in health. There are no adequate returns in these investments,” Bandora said then.
In the overall Competitiveness Index, Namibia received positive comments with the report noting that the country “continues to benefit from a relatively well-functioning institutional environment, with well-protected property rights, an independent judiciary, and reasonably strong public trust in politicians. The country’s transport infrastructure is also good by regional standards. Financial markets are reasonably developed and buttressed by solid confidence in financial institutions, although their overall assessment has weakened for three years in a row.”
On education Namibia is ranked at 124th position “because the enrolment rates remain low and the quality of the educational system remains poor.” In addition, Namibia “could do more to harness new technologies to improve its productivity levels,” the report says.
Mauritius overtook South Africa as the region’s most competitive economy. Among low-income economies, Kenya makes the biggest improvement, rising by ten places to 96th position. Nigeria at number 120 in the global ranking, continues to be ranked low, highlighting the need for it to diversify its economy. “With only eight countries in the region featuring in the top 100, profound efforts across the board are clearly needed to improve Africa’s competitiveness,” said the report.
“Innovation becomes even more critical in terms of an economy’s ability to foster future prosperity,” said Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum. “I predict that the traditional distinction between countries being ‘developed’ or ‘less developed’ will gradually disappear and we will instead refer to them much more in terms of being ‘innovation rich’ vs ‘innovation poor’ countries. It is therefore vital that leaders from business, government and civil society work collaboratively to create education systems and enable environments which foster innovation,” said Schwab.
By Desie Heita