Windhoek-President Hage Geingob says the fact that inequality in Namibia is among the highest in the world keeps him awake at night and is simply unacceptable. Geingob was speaking in Windhoek yesterday when he addressed a conference of the African-European party dialogue of socialists and democrats, aimed at overcoming inequality as a political challenge.
He said a century of colonial rule and apartheid concentrated Namibia’s wealth, including the ownership of land, in the hands of a white minority.
But he added that the government enjoys a massive electoral mandate of 80 percent, which is indicative of the trust the masses have placed in their ability to resolve the triple challenge of inequality, poverty and unemployment.
Therefore, he said, it would be a gross betrayal of this trust if the government did nothing about inequality.
“It would be an even bigger betrayal if we were to allow an elite, white minority ownership of our economy to be replaced or joined by a few black Namibians. Our inequality focus is premised on the principles of broad-based, transparent empowerment which stimulates shared growth.”
He said one of the most pressing issues for the world today is income inequality, whereby the rich get richer while the poor struggle to access meaningful opportunities.
According to him, it is unsettling to read that the eight richest people in the world account for the same income of 3.5 billion people.
In many countries, including in Namibia, Geingob said, the top one percent have the same income as the bottom 50 percent.
“It is a classic story of the haves versus the have-nots and as we all know, there will always be resistance from the haves who tend to believe they are being unfairly targeted. I am intentionally using the word ‘haves’ as it is colour-neutral and includes the wealthy black Namibian elite.”
As a nation, he said, Namibians tend to racialize the discussion of wealth re-distribution when in fact it is a matter of highly skewed distribution of resources, which is unsustainable.
“As a country that begrudges our status as one of the most unequal in the world, we are compelled to act with urgency to reduce inequality to secure social cohesion and shared prosperity.”
He stressed that inequality is the principal cause of the current economic flux that the world finds itself in, which is behind the rising levels of economic migration, terrorism, human trafficking and all other forms of international, organized crime.
Geingob said nations should ensure that the youth become a blessing to Africa and her future, rather than a time bomb that will explode into anarchy and political upheaval.
One of the ways in which Namibia is tackling the issue of youth unemployment is through youth enterprise development, he stressed.
Through the fostering of innovation and enterprise development, he said, the government aims to support small and medium enterprises run by the youth to enable them to become catalysts for job creation and economic growth.
The youth are not the only group who are vulnerable to inequality, as Namibia also faces a challenge in terms of gender inequality, said the president.
Therefore, he called for a need to ensure that women are empowered through education and increased participation in the fields of business and entrepreneurship.