NDP5: Focus on human capital development….Social Transformation: Part 1

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Staff Reporter

Windhoek-The Fifth National Development Plan (NDP5), which was recently launched by President Geingob, is the 5th NDP in the series of seven National Development Plans that are to implement and achieve the objectives and aspirations of Namibia’s long-term vision, Vision 2030.

NDP5 is the third five-year implementation vehicle towards Vision 2030 and will be implemented from the financial year 2017/18 up until 2021/22. The NDP5 framework is organised around four interconnected pillars based on the principles of sustainable development, namely economic progression; social transformation; environmental sustainability; and good governance.

These pillars are aligned with Namibia’s commitment to eradicate poverty and inequality as outlined in Vision 2030, the Harambee Prosperity Plan (2016), and the Swapo Party Manifesto (2014).

Additionally, the pillars support the global and continental development frameworks to which Namibia is committed. These include Agenda 2030, Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), The Paris Agreement (CoP21), African Union (AU) Agenda 2063 and SADC Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (RISDP).

Within these contexts, Namibia commits itself to enhancing growth and economic diversification while addressing challenges that include a high degree of regulation and a mismatch between the skill levels in Namibia’s work force and the skills demanded by the labour market.

NDP5 identifies five game changers that will move Namibia from a reactive, input-based economy towards a proactive, high performing economy. The game changers are: to increase investment in infrastructure development; increase productivity in agriculture, especially for smallholder farmers; invest in quality technical skills development; improve value addition in natural resources; achieve industrial development through local procurement.

Harnessing The Demographic Dividends
The Namibian population is currently undergoing a demographic transition. The population has grown from 1.4 million in 1990 to 2.2 million in 2016 and is projected to increase to 3.5 million by 2030.

The current growth rate of population is 1.2 percent per annum, declining from 2.6 percent in 2001. The fertility rate in Namibia has fallen from an average of 6.1 children per woman in 1991 to 3.6 in 2011. The changing demographics mean that Namibia’s population, which was once dominated by children, is now dominated by young adults of working age.

This “excess” labour force can be a tremendous asset for economic growth if the workers are skilled and the economy is able to generate adequate quality jobs for them. However, a demographic dividend is not automatic. It requires conscious investment in education, housing and health.

Thus, during NDP5 there is a need to:
Accelerate demographic transition through investments that facilitate rapid fertility decline, enhance child survival, and improve education and general empowerment of women;
Enhance investment in basic and high-level education to develop a well-educated, skilled, and innovative labour force;

Increase investment in the health sector to nurture a healthy and productive labour force;
Implement sound economic reforms and develop necessary infrastructure to accelerate economic growth and job creation for the rapidly expanding labour force;

Enhance good governance, accountability and performance management to ensure efficient delivery of public services, minimize wastage of public resources and curb corruption.

Namibia’s demographic dividend can be leveraged in the areas of infrastructure development, manufacturing, agriculture, fisheries, tourism and mining. These sectors require skilled labour, which may be drawn from the large youthful population that is currently facing high rates of unemployment and poverty.

It is important to note that in the absence of economic opportunity, a large youth population characterised by poverty and unemployment can result in social unrest and an uptick in crime. Therefore, the demographic dividend can cut both ways.

Human Capital Development
The focus areas for NDP5 are social protection, early childhood development, basic education, technical vocational education and training, and higher education.

Social Protection
Namibia’s growing economy has created economic opportunities and improved the living standards of many. However, social protection in particular social safety net plays a well-recognized redistributive role.

In Namibia, social safety nets have expanded remarkably, with over 400,000 beneficiaries. Without social protection, such as social grants, poverty levels in Namibia could have been 35 percent and severe poverty could have been 22 percent, compared to 29 percent and 15 percent in 2009/10, respectively.

In 2015, social grants accounted for about 5.4 percent of total expenditure and about 2.2 percent of GDP indicating limited fiscal space to expand it further. During NDP 4, Namibia reduced extreme poverty rate from 15 percent in 2010 to 11 percent in 2015. Despite this, a substantial segment of the population remains extremely poor.

Inequality is still prevalent, currently estimated at 0.57 (in terms of Gini-coefficient). Although 72 percent of the potential workforce is employed, only 14 percent of the total population earns more than the domestic worker minimum wage of N$1,353. Pervasive poverty, income inequality and dependency threaten family community cohesion and political stability.

Desired outcome
By 2022, the proportion of severely poor individuals will have dropped from 11 percent in 2016 to 5 percent.

Challenges
There is a fragmented social protection system, which presents difficulties in the implementation of social protection policies and programmes. The absence of a national social protection policy and implementation framework has contributed to inefficiency in the system.

Social protection programmes thus need to be result-based and be able to graduate poor people out of poverty into sustainable livelihoods.

Other social protection challenges include:
Exclusion and limited coverage of some poor and vulnerable people by the existing social grants; lack of integrated database on beneficiaries of the social grants and other social assistance; lack of access to media, such as TV or radio; lack of access to basic services which make it difficult for poor and low-income citizens to participate in the economy; lack of access to energy, water and other basic infrastructure.

The poor in rural areas are often lacking the most basic features of modern life, without which it is difficult to remain in good health, develop complex skills and create home-based businesses. There is also a lack of access to quality education and training opportunities.

These deprivations make it much harder for individuals to acquire skills valued by the labour market through which they can lift themselves out of poverty.

Early Childhood Development
To get the maximum return, investment in human capital should start in the early years of life. Early childhood is a critical developmental window when a child’s disabilities can be identified and treated to avoid further problems. Early Childhood Development encompasses all aspects of children’s development, including cognitive, social, emotional and physical abilities.

In 2015, 13 percent of children aged 0-4 years were enrolled in ECD programmes. According to the 2011 National Population and Housing Census only 13 percent of children aged 0-4 years were enrolled in ECD programmes. Children in urban areas (19 percent) were more likely to receive ECD services than children in rural areas (9.8 percent).

Desired outcome
By 2022, Namibian children aged 0-8 will have a secure an educational foundation through access to ECD services.

Challenges
There is limited investment in ECD, which leads to low access to ECD centres; poor academic outcomes and outputs, and poor return to education. Lack of birth certificates due to absent mother/fathers also affects access to ECD.

Furthermore, the system is fragmented with 5-8 year olds managed by Ministry of Education Arts and Culture (MoEAC), 0-4 by Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare (MGECW), while nutrition and parenting is managed by Ministry of Health and Social Service (MoHSS), which leads to duplication of efforts.

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