The growing levels of unemployment in Namibia poses a very serious and dangerous picture for the nation and should not be taken for granted as the continued negative social implications thereof could among others significantly affect the country’s economic development plans and programs.
With that said, the rate at which the unemployment levels have been increasing across the country over the years showcases a high negative trend which if not nipped in the bud now could derail all national development efforts that were meant to propel the country to an industrialized nation by the year 2030.
Acknowledging at this stage the global economic slowdown during the last five years, as well as the devastating agricultural drought in the region and its significant negative impact on the domestic economy, the growth rate of the Namibian unemployment situation is however nevertheless still exceptionally too high. And despite strategic intervention by the Namibian Government through national economic development programs such as the NDPs, TIPEEG and the mass housing initiatives, the situation is getting out of hand.
This sad situation is further supported by the recently released data of the Namibia Labour Force Survey report which clearly showed that the number of people employed in 2016 decreased to 135,800 from 206,000 in 2014 representing an unemployment increase rate of 6 percent over this review period. This significant decline came from key major economic sectors such as the fisheries, forestry, retail, wholesale and agriculture sectors.
In contrast to the above and as per the same report, the construction and manufacturing sector however recorded an increase in employment levels during the same period, especially in 2016, which unfortunately is now experiencing negative economic pressure due to a major decline in new appointments.
The above situation is further complicated and compounded by the high number of annual academic graduates from institutions of higher learning who despite having the required qualifications are finding it very difficult to find meaningful employment opportunities in the economy. The moratorium by the Namibian Government of not accepting any new employment into the state has further demoralized job seekers who had opted to work for the Namibian government.
Namibia as a result of this negative developing situation needs going forward realistically, practically, and implement the mass socio-economic development policies and programs, which should without delay reverse these negative social trends. The country has to take the bull by its horns in such ways that the necessary policies and resources are identified and implemented accordingly for the long-term benefit of its productive citizens.
And despite this upward negative unemployment trajectory, all nevertheless seems to be business as usual with no effective mass employment creation solutions in sight.
With that said, the released unemployment data from the Namibia Labour Force Survey report does not augur well for all concerned stakeholders and hence going forward requires the much needed realistic economic intervention.
In this regard, I have identified the need to ensure the significant domestication of key economic sectors such as the manufacturing, construction and agriculture sectors, which are briefly explained below. In terms of manufacturing, the Namibian government should impose a directory which will compel that all public institutions such as schools including higher academic institutions, hospitals, police, key ministries, agencies, army and correctional services procure all their furniture, uniforms, curtains, agricultural produce, among others, from locally manufactured or produced sources; that in terms of construction only significantly Namibian-owned companies will be awarded construction projects and in agriculture that all major retailers stock Namibian produced products.
This can be extended to the fishing and mining sectors which compels that fishing and mining licenses be issued to significantly Namibian-owned companies that demonstrate a significant Namibian presence, and that all business entities operating in Namibia should have a socially responsible program to directly empower the community.
The above national business model will in the long run ensure that Namibians come first across major economic sectors which at the moment are not significantly regulated to the detriment of the country.
The absence of such a nationally regulated business environment as displayed above is a major contributing factor to the continued high unemployment levels in the country, a situation which is bound to continue should the status quo remain.
With that said, the mass employment creation initiative especially targeting the youth should be the main focus as they represent a significant portion of the Namibian population and all efforts should be geared towards an economic environment which can absorb them into the economic mainstream of the country.
In conclusion, unemployment in Namibia can be significantly reduced with the same vigour and determination which united the nation to achieve its political independence, provided the will is there.
* Pendapala Hangala is a Namibian socio-economist.