According to the literature review on economic development, one of the most important concepts is the basic needs approach, i.e. having the minimum of food, clothes, shelter, healthcare, and education.
In fact, poverty is a multi-dimensional concept, or cross-cutting issue. Namibia focuses on food poverty as the first element of basic needs. Accordingly, an adult is poor if his consumption expenditure for food and non-food items is less than N$377.96 per month.
Severely poor is classified based on N$277.96 per month. Statistics show that poverty declined from 69.3% in 1994 to 28.7% in 2010, for the poor category. Not only is this a substantial decline, but the target set for 2015 has been achieved.
As for the statistics in the severely poor category, these numbers have declined from 58.9% in 1994 to 15.3% in 2010. Since the target set for 2015 is 29.5%, Namibia has already met the target.
The reduction of poverty and inequality remains an overarching priority for the Namibian government. According to its national development framework, Vision 2030, income inequality and poverty endanger social harmony, peace, and democracy.
Vision 2030’s long-term development objective is to reduce poverty to a minimum, to ensure that income distribution is equitable, and to guarantee that disparity is at a minimum.
It is noteworthy that in Namibia, 10% of households with the lowest levels of income account for just over 1% of total expenditure, and that 10% of households with the highest income account for more than the 50% of total expenditure.
Indeed, the wealthiest 10% in the country have consumption levels that are 50 times higher than the poorest 10%. It also needs to take into account that 27.4% of Namibians are unemployed. Furthermore, food insecurity and malnutrition at household level have negative effects, particularly for children.
In 2007, infant mortality was 46 deaths per 1,000 live births, compared to 57 in 1992, with a 2015 target of 19. The under-five mortality rate in 1992 was 83, which declined to 69 in 2007, with a 2015 target of 28. Although progress has been made, it would appear rather unlikely that both targets will be achieved. It reveals that the level of education of mothers plays a significant role in the reduction of child mortality. Among marginalised communities, child mortality is substantially high, substantiating the fact that levels of education are comparatively low among such communities.
Maternal mortality (which is the death of women during pregnancy or childbirth or in the 42 days following delivery) remains a major challenge to the health system in Namibia. The maternal mortality rate was 225 deaths in 100,000 live births in 1992, and increased to 449 in 2007, with a 2015 target set at 56 currently an unachievable target.
In fact, there is a direct relationship between child mortality and maternal mortality, as the level of education of mothers and immediate families plays a crucial role.
Maternal healthcare services are based on four pillars: (a) antenatal care; (b) clean and safe delivery; (c) postnatal care; and (d) family planning. These aspects require skills, which should be given first by education, or knowledge before training is provided. Government is committed to enhance skills through education for nurses and midwives, which is vital to provide the specific knowledge required for the above-mentioned four pillars.
In fact, the set target cannot be achieved with respect to Vision 2030, if education required for the above four pillars is not targeted first.
Namibia is a medium human development country with an Human Development Index (HDI) score of 0.608 in 2013, down from 0.625 in 2011, as observed by Levine who posits that human development is not steady.
This contradicts Vision 2030 objectives because human development in Namibia has been on a long-term decline. The HDI is still being pulled down by a fall in life-expectancy due in large part to increased mortality caused by the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
This is only partially offset by improvements in household income levels and levels of educational attainment. Two other indicators of human development are included in the index. The analysis also reveals great inequalities in human development among different administrative regions of Namibia and among the country’s main language groups.
Similarly, by broadening the definition of poverty to include deprivation within a range of essential capabilities, the level of human poverty in Namibia is found to be slightly higher than what is suggested by official income poverty measures.
Moreover, income poverty appears to be decreasing while human poverty is increasing. Again, it is the HIV/AIDS epidemic, through its toll on survival, which is propelling a long-term deterioration in human poverty, and subsequently, in human development.
* Dr David Namwandi is a PhD holder in Business Administration from Asia e University, Malaysia. He is the Founder of IUM and former Minister of Education, Republic of Namibia.