The African Development Bank (AfDB) says although it has recognised the high economic growth rate in the country there are still numerous hurdles to overcome, such as the severe lack of skills. The bank has therefore called for urgent action to review skills development, both in terms of basic skills, as well as those skills that will take Namibia into the next decade.
“The African Development Bank understands the challenges faced by Namibians. Skills development will address unemployment, particularly among the youth, and this in turn will address inequality to ensure no one is left out,” said AfDB’s Kennedy Mbekeani in the capital yesterday during the start of a one-day seminar on products and services.
During his welcoming remarks Mbekeani also urged for rural transformation to address the phenomenon of urban migration. “African countries need to improve facilities in rural areas to stem the tide of urban migration. We need to identify facilities in rural areas to encourage people to stay in rural areas and to transform these areas into towns and cities,” said Mbekeani.
“However, we cannot do this if we do not address skills development,” he added. Mbekeani continued that the AfDB is also prepared to work with the private sector to contribute to skills development, saying this sector of the economy should be at the forefront in engaging deeper integration of the youth into the mainstream economy.
Also speaking at the opening of the seminar, Deputy Minister of Finance Natangue Ithete said government welcomes the bank’s efforts to increase strategic and technical support to member countries in the areas of energy, agriculture, industrialisation, regional integration and improving the lives of Africans.
“We observe that these five propriety areas mirror very closely Namibia’s own development agenda, which focusses on agriculture, manufacturing and logistics, in addition to tourism to which the bank’s Country Strategy Paper is aligned,” said Ithete.
Ithete added that Namibia’s private sector has demonstrated commitment to strive towards international best practices with both listings and increasing activities on the stock exchange over the years: “I believe, therefore, that Namibia’s corporate sector is ready to engage in a meaningful and mutually rewarding relationship with AfDB and it is my hope that AfDB will deploy its resources and expertise to promote such relationship.”
Deputy Minister Ithete mentioned that AfDB’s financial and technical assistance portfolio in Namibia is growing. This includes support for the new Walvis Bay Container Terminal Expansion Project and the line of credit to the Development Bank of Namibia for infrastructure development.
“We also recognise the bank’s technical support in the public finance management, energy and transport sectors to enlighten government policy and investment decision making. All these confirm the contributions the AfDB is making to the country’s development agenda,” said Ithete.
Commenting on the elimination of trade barriers, Mbekeani remarked that known tariff barriers are simple to eliminate. “We should move towards a system of no barriers and towards a system of no border stops, as these discourage investors,” he noted. Mbekeani then called on African countries to stop being “inward looking”, such as always relying on South Africa for trade and instead encouraged companies to move out of their comfort zones to pursue trade with other countries on the continent.
Mbekeani also touched on the emergence of regional and global value chains. He advised Namibia to consider entering value chains even with raw materials not directly available in the country. “Value chain development should be considered for raw materials not in Namibia. As an example, Namibia can buy tea from Malawi and blend it locally, after which it can be exported. We need to look beyond the traditional avenue of value chain development,” he said.
On the country’s aspirations to become a logistics hub, Mbekeani advised that the country should consider establishing its own shipping line, as the existing lines make transporting goods very expensive.