Academics should contribute to social development – deputy minister

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Albertina Nakale

Windhoek-Deputy Minister of Economic Planning Lucia Iipumbu says in planning for economic growth Namibian leaders should be cognizant of the fact that economic growth is not beneficial if social challenges are ignored.
“The real social challenges in Africa are poverty, income inequality and unemployment. These are the same challenges that Namibia has been battling with since independence,” she said yesterday during a joint two-day conference organised by the University of Namibia (Unam)’s Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences and Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences.

Further, she said Vision 2030 requires Namibia to grow the economy at an average rate of 6.2 percent per annum. She noted though that the set target for annual growth has not been realised and the growth that has been achieved over the years was not enough to address the major challenges of high unemployment, especially among the youth, as well as high levels of income inequality and poverty.

The conference aims to promote empirical research and dialogue on national and international development plans, such as the Harambee blueprint and the Fifth National Developmental Plan (NDP5), the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations and Agenda 2063 plan of the African Union.

Iipumbu said poverty levels in 1993 stood at 69.3 percent and has fallen to 18 percent, according to recent statistics. While acknowledging the decrease, she said the fact that there are still many poor people in Namibia was a matter of great concern to government and is an issue that needs to be addressed urgently.

She said inequality rose over the period in question and is currently estimated at a Gini-coefficient of 0.57, some 18 percent lower than Namibia’s long-term target of 0.30 by 2030.

The Gini-coefficient is a measure of statistical dispersion intended to represent the income or wealth distribution of a nation’s residents, and is the most commonly used measure of inequality; where 0 on the index represents perfect equality. Similarly, unemployment remains extraordinarily high at 34 percent, according to the 2016 Labour Survey.

“Sadly, this high percentage is mainly because of youth unemployment, which makes [up] more that 70 percent of the total unemployed people in the country. This means that Namibian needs accelerated social development to respond to these social challenges,” Iipumbu said.

The worrying social statistics mentioned above indicate that Namibia not only needs sustained economic growth, but also strong social development interventions that address the key social challenges.

Through the dialogue, academic, governmental and non-governmental institutions and organisations will map out effective policy implementation strategies that will ultimately contribute towards sustainable development.

The deputy minister therefore called on the academics present to make their research more practical so as to advance national economic development, saying the research should not only be used for academic purposes. Unam Pro-Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Prof Frednard Gideon said the university has decided that at least 30 to 40 percent of the work of an academic member of staff should be devoted to research and related activities, while 60
percent of the workload is devoted to teaching and guiding students.

‘It is thus pleasing to note that a total of about 40 papers will be presented at this conference over the two days. I may say the challenge ahead of us is to embark on more multidisciplinary and team research, which cuts across the different disciplines in our faculties and across the university – and even with researchers in other SADC countries and abroad who have similar interests as ours,” he noted.

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