In Namibia, more than a third of the entire population is aged under 15; this is almost 10 percent more than the global average. While this obviously creates some socio-economic challenges in terms of education, employment and welfare, it also presents a real opportunity to establish a new generation of Namibian leaders who can take the country forward from strength to strength.
We recognise this means that our partnership with government must play a major role in creating a positive future for this youthful population. Of course, investing in Namibia’s future is the right thing for us to do commercially, as it means we will have access to a better-trained, more diverse workforce for our operations in-country, and it means there will be more effective infrastructure to support our activities.
But, as the single biggest contributor to the country’s economy, our partnership also has a vital moral responsibility to help create the conditions in which young Namibians can thrive.
And while the economic benefits of our activities – through royalties, dividends and taxes – are a big part of our contribution to Namibia’s future, we recognise that there are other ways in which we can help shape a brighter future for all Namibians.
One crucial aspect of our support for national economic development is through putting the Namibian supply chain to work. The more we can source the required goods and services from Namibian providers, the more economic benefit we can retain in-country from our diamond exploration, mining, sorting and sales activities.
Last year we spent N$2.8 billion with Namibian suppliers. While we know we can always do more – with local procurement being one of our seven pillars for socio-economic development – the investments we have made are helping other Namibian enterprises to grow alongside us.
But outside of our core business, we must also seek other ways in which we can help society in Namibia develop positively for the benefit of the population. With this in mind, we have sought opportunities, both big and small, to support communities in the areas that can help drive positive, lasting change. When it comes to providing conditions in which young people can flourish, we know that education is of prime importance. And we recognise that this can be a particular challenge for children from underprivileged communities.
That is why one of our major social investments last year was to commit N$10 million over five years in the University of Namibia’s southern campus to provide access to higher education for children in marginalised communities.
The partnership aims to complement two of Government’s national priorities: first, supporting Namibian children from communities to fulfil their academic potential; and second, supporting gender equality by ensuring that at least 50 percent of the beneficiaries are female.
During 2016, we supported 87 students at the university – 54 percent of whom were female – through scholarships, grants for books and hostels. But while major investments such as this can help create change, sometimes smaller projects can have just as much power to transform lives.
For example, the Debmarine Namdeb Foundation has made a number of important donations that have made a major difference to the lives of Namibian citizens around the country.
These have included handing over hi-tech equipment worth a total of N$125,000 to two schools in the Aminuis constituency in the Omaheke Region; providing N$20,000 to establish Oranjemund’s first art school to help form an arts and culture nucleus for the town transformation; and supporting the installation of solar lights at two primary schools in Windhoek, the Olof Palme and Hillside Primary Schools. Smaller contributions like this are taking place across the country and when added together they can start to make quite a big difference.
Investments such as these are essential building a bright future for Namibia because, as the proverb goes, ‘from little date seeds, great things are born’. Now, with the rains falling again, those seeds can be watered and from them we will help grow the leaders of Namibia’s future.
* Gareth Mostyn is the executive head of strategy and business development at De Beers Group.