by Mihe Gaomab II
Namibia’s economy has grown at an inconsistent but stable trajectory for the last 25 years since independence. It has shown growth rate levels ranging from three to six percent on account of basic minerals production and exports such as minerals, fishing and agricultural produce.
Although commendable strides were made to ensure such growth in terms of added value to the country’s need for economic stability and developmental needs, the growth has sadly not trickled down to ensure increased employment and reduced absolute poverty alleviation in Namibia. There is however proven statistics that indicate that relative poverty as compared to absolute poverty has reduced somewhat in Namibia but income inequality is still pervasive and protracted.
The President of Namibia, Dr Hage Geingob, aptly indicated in his quest for inclusivity that “No Namibian must be left out” in political and socio-economic developmental priorities.
This presidential aspirations and economically necessary and developmentally focused vision is borne out of the fact that the economic resurgence in Namibia since independence has not been broadly shared. Instead, economic growth has been concentrated in particular islands of primary sectors with abject poverty and income inequality. What is discontenting in Namibia is that the economy is structured in such a fashion that it is still and does exclude large sections of the people.
There is therefore a need to ensure a dedicated and focussed economic paradigm to ensure economic inclusion. To lift the majority of Namibians out of poverty and to aid in reduced income inequality, growth must be more inclusive especially if Namibia wants to broaden and enhance its small-sized middle class between the “haves” and the “have nots”.
This requires creating income and employment access, pathways, channels and opportunities through a better commercial and business environment as well as the investment climate that enables the public and private sector to thrive.
More importantly, the government needs to take a proactive lead in fostering inclusive growth enhancing policies within its future National Development Plans to ensure economically inclusive driven outcomes.
It’s encouraging that Prime Minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila stated recently that the New Equitable Economic Empowerment Framework (NEEEF) is being realised into legislation by September 2015 that would set the stage for economic empowerment of Namibians in its broad entirety. NEEEF currently in its form is broad, inclusive, time consistent, focussed, and well targeted.
Although such a policy and legislative dimensions are indeed commendable in Namibia, there are wide-stream efforts needed to ensure policy directed interventions on sector, regional and national basis.
There is need to ensure adequate housing provision as asset ownership formation and that commendable strides are made positively in that direction. There is need to effect procurement rules that would be preferential towards local Namibians and Namibian-owned SMEs.
There is need for the Foreign Investment Act to be reserved as Government strives to reserve poverty sensitive sectors such as hair salons, taxis, street vendor selling, to Namibians. There is need to beef up infrastructure provision in terms of agricultural modernisation, mineral beneficiation, adequate energy supply, logistics and renewable technologies in especially remote areas which needs more grid connection and ease and increased digital technology such as electronic banking in unbanked areas.
Achieving inclusive growth will also be cemented by effective transformation of Namibia’s primary produce such as agro-business products into value addition products through industrialisation and SME development.
There is also an outcry to ensure that the Namibian people who have a natural human capital base are educated and trained with requisite skills with a guaranteed access to health and sanitation within a pro-poor policy friendly environment.
Economic inclusion thus calls for a prudent, effective, and sustainable management of policies that are not only pro-growth but pro-poor and pro-inclusive for the benefit of all Namibians. Namibia is on the right path of inclusivity where no Namibian is left out towards empowerment for the next 15 years into the visionary year of 2030.
• Mihe Gaomab II is the president of the Namibian Economic Society.