The University of Namibia (Unam) on Friday awarded Prime Minister Saara Kugongelwa-Amathila and businesswoman Martha Namundjebo-Tilahun with honorary doctorates for their contributions to the country’s economic growth.
The prime minister was conferred an honorary doctorate in public finance, while Namundjebo received a honorary doctorate degree (honoris causa) in business administration.
Unam pro-vice chancellor for academic affairs, administration and research Professor Osmund Mwandemele said Namundjebo-Tilahun has for a long time had a vision for Africa and at every available opportunity has been stressing the need for Africa to conduct successful business, as encapsulated in the slogan ‘By Africans for Africans’.
Through her journey promoting the need to reform governance, policies, attitudes, legislation, cooperation and coordination, that have become major impediments to the development in Africa, she has forged relationships with the governments and leaders of DRC, South Africa, Congo Brazzaville, Zambia and Botswana.
“Even though she has been promoting her own business in many African countries, the essence of most of her visits to these countries has been to promote business on our African continent and to appeal to leaders to remove the barriers to socio-economic development of our people,” Mwandemele noted.
Namundjebo has also been an avid advocate of women’s entrepreneurship and continues to stress the importance of creating a conducive environment and legal framework that supports the emergence of women as transformational leaders at community, as well as national level.
It is, therefore, no surprise that she dedicated her achievement to the African girl child, who she says needs all types of inspiration in order to play a meaningful role in the development of the African continent and humanity in general.
She has also launched the Dr Martha Namundjebo-Tilahun Foundation, focusing on the empowerment and development of the African girl child, which will begin to work on establishing the necessary structures and support mechanisms to allow it to make a noticeable impact in the life of the African girl child.
Meanwhile, Kuugongelwa-Amathila is recognised for outstanding work, such as being appointed the youngest ever director general at the age of 26, as well as being the first and youngest finance minister and first ever female prime minister in Namibian history.
The vice chancellor of Unam Professor Lazarus Hangula – who spoke of her early political awakening at the age of 12 – said Kuugongelwa-Amathila’s teenage years and part of her adolescense were dedicated to fostering the cause of a free and prosperous Namibia.
He also praised her for protecting Namibia during the global economic crisis when she cut the budget by quite a big chunk in the context of that time, which ostensibly enabled the country to weather the storm of the global economic crisis by providing fiscal support to prop up the economy and provide tax relief to taxpayers.
“Our candidate strongly believes that since Namibia has a solid foundation and good policies to ensure that the country’s indicators, in terms of poverty, unemployment and human resources, match the indicators in terms of macroeconomics.
“In other words, while she is in her current office, our candidate wants to see the living conditions of the Namibian people reflecting the level of the national endowment of the country and the level of growth of the national economy and not the current status quo, where there are huge discrepancies between them,” he motivated.
In her acceptance speech, Kuugongelwa-Amathila said over the years she has placed a lot of emphasis on education and human resources development.
“Primarily, because I am convinced that without major systematic and decisive intervention in these areas, our people will continue to be underdeveloped, underemployed, unemployed, unemployable, ignorant and diseased.”
She said it is imperative for Unam to produce knowledge and skills that are able to meet the human resource capital requirements of Namibia.
She says with dwindling public resources which limit funding from governments, individual higher education institutions need to find innovative ways of reducing costs, becoming more efficient and finding alternative sources of funding.
Former president Hifikepunye Pohamba, in his capacity as Chancellor of Unam, conferred the degrees on both candidates and congratulated them for their outstanding work for the good of Namibia.
“Saara did fantastic work as finance minister until her appointment as first Prime Minister,” Pohamba said.
About Namundjebo-Tilahun Pohamba said: “Martha came a long way from humble beginnings. She has been running businesses which became successful. We must do business. Where there is no business, poverty will not be eradicated. Let us become rich.”