The generation of young Namibians that were born between the year 1990 and 2001 will all be eligible to actively participate and vote in the upcoming 2019 general elections.
Those born in the year 1990 are now 27 years old and should by now have participated in two national general elections, an experience which could further influence their future voting patterns in elections to come.
With that said, Namibia’s population size in 1990 was 1.4 million people which has since grown by an average annual growth rate of 2.8 percent to now stand at an estimated current size of 2.5 million citizens.
This figure represents a significant increase over this period of close to 1.1 million (about 95% increase) born frees onto the Namibian population landscape which by any account is still quite a large number of people.
I will however and for the purpose of this argument only focus on those that were born between the year 1990 and 2001 which is approximately 600 000 born-frees that will be eligible to vote in the 2019 general elections although taking into consideration that the born frees will continue to grow beyond 2019 to have a significant influence on the future political landscape for country.
For all intents and purposes, the 2014 general elections had a total number of 1.2 million registered voters of which close to 87 percent of that casted their votes with the reminder abstaining. With continued changes in the social and economic patterns of the country, please be aware that the total number of registered voters could either increase significantly or marginally for the upcoming 2019 general elections.
In these numbers, the youth that were born before independence and those born after independence accounted for a significant 50% plus which by any account is a significant voting block that should not be taken for granted by politicians.
With that brief background, I would like to highlight three significant but inter-related points. Firstly, Namibia is a very stable and peaceful democratic country but like any other developing nations has a growing young population that is being faced with many challenges resulting in a generation that could unfortunately not be bothered too much with what may have transpired before independence with their primary focus on building for themselves a dignified life.
Secondly, the Namibian Government of the day should be praised in significantly investing in Education as an impetus to propel the nation towards industrialisation but somehow is struggling to achieve this goal resulting in stagnation with an increasing population size. The above two points are the basis upon which the future political state of the nation will be based.
Last but not least which somehow complicate matters further and is very sad but true is that the Namibian political dispensation have after the attainment of the nation’s independence instead put in too much emphasis on the pre-independence rhetorics ignoring the needs of its young growing population creating in the process a new voting generation that could swaying the political future of the country in any direction.
With that said and as a result of the above mentioned points, Namibia as a young country started to experience general voter apathy especially among the youth a negative sign that young people are not interested to participate in the political democratic landscape of their country as compared to those that were significantly born before independence due to their strong historic link to the country.
The abovementioned trend is especially not healthy for a young democracy and as such should be immediately reversed to encourage disenfranchised voters and the new generation of eligible born free voters to actively participate in the political discourse and democratic voting environment of the country.
In this same vain, the current socio-economic environment, challenges and direction are strong motivators or de-motivators towards an aspiring born free voter generation which by all means will affect their future voting patterns as they do not know nor experience the effect of war but peace and stability that has unfortunately provided them with limited economic opportunities as a generation.
These abovementioned developments – although not critically observed – have the potential to change the dynamics of the future political dimension of the country. Issues of relevance to the youth are not yet prominent to the current politicians despite the fact that the born frees have increased in large numbers over the years. And will continue to do so.
It is hence important going forward that due to new political dynamics that are currently at play that the Namibian political playing field changes towards fulfilling the needs and aspirations of this new generation of potential young voters who could in future elections will have significant voting power over those born on or before the year 1990.
* Pendapala Hangala is a Namibian socio-economist.