Value addition on our minerals to create jobs

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McHenry Venaani

Russian philosopher Ivan Tuqanev once said: “If you wait for absolute everything to be ready, you will never be ready.” Namibia’s economic growth is largely dependent on investments in the primary sector (raw materials), specifically in mining, a trend that has for years been urged to change to focus on the secondary sector (production), if the country is to see more wealth for the benefit of everyone.

Value addition and beneficiation of minerals before export should be one of the key pillars of Namibia’s goal to create value to our products and create employment for our unemployed youth, whose statistics now stand at 43.4 percent, and accelerate industrial development.

While in terms of revenue, mining accounts for 25 percent of the country’s income, we should put into perspective that its contribution to the gross domestic product, GDP, was 10.4 percent in 2009, 8.5 percent in 2010, 9.5 percent in 2011, 12.3 percent in 2012, 13.2 percent in 2013 and 11.6 percent in 2014. These statistics show a steady increase as well as a slight decline for some years.

Namibia is praised for having natural resources in abundance through diamonds, copper, gold, uranium, lead, tin, zinc, salt, vanadium, fisheries, and wildlife; and suspected deposits of oil, coal and iron ore.
Agriculture products: Livestock, millet, fish and fish products, grapes and wool but we lack appropriate economic development due to lack of science and technology.

In the worst case, our raw materials are extracted from here and exported in their raw state at very low prices.
This means our value addition or processing is done outside our country and the finished goods or processed materials imported as finished products that attract more money.

The importation at high prices opens the gap between poverty and wealthy people in our country. It is also because of this that the plight of Namibia due to lack of appropriate technologies to engage in complete value addition to the raw materials that are abundant in our communities that we need to find ways to engage the country in latest technologies that are of use in adding enormous value to our natural resources.

This unavailability of modern technologies is quickly capitalized on by rich nations who already have the technology but do not have adequate raw materials in their nations. Such a scenario creates exploitation of natural resources from African nations such as ours. This then makes it difficult to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that were agreed upon by the United Nations member states.

As an African country that is rising, we should not be left among other developing nations at the mercy of developed countries. We should take innovation to the next level to benefit all our people. Government came up with a food bank, but where did it leave us? We cannot feed our own people with processed food. Our people need to be encouraged to work harder, instill ideas on how they can be creative and innovative and how to showcase this creativity to the outside world.

Let us also create a system that prioritizes what is more important and what can come secondary, in this scenario. For a less than 2,4 million populated country we shouldn’t be having people that have no access to clean water, proper education, and streets that are invaded by hundreds and thousands of streets kids. This is the right stage where we should move towards being a self-reliant and prosperous country having attained independence 28 years ago.
Efforts should be made at national level to promote science and technology but the associated political policies should not affect it. When we engage developing countries in our developmental goals and task, we need to foster ‘win-win’ partnerships that promote science and technology enterprises targeted at capacity building in value addition.

Spending money on training and skills development of our future generation shouldn’t be seen as wasting money. It is these skills that we are investing in right now that will take this country forward in years to come.
It is upsetting to note that the Namibian Government only has a three percent shareholding in Rössing Uranium, which is the sixth ranked producer of uranium, producing about 8 percent of the world’s uranium, but the majority of shareholding is in the hands of foreign nationals.

However, we should applaud the fact that in 2015 the mining industry accounted for approximately 19,000 jobs in Namibia compared to 14,000 created in 2011.

The vast empty landscapes and dry deserts are two factors that seriously hinder development. It is not always viable to provide electricity and water to the arid areas where some minerals are found.
It is regrettable that due to commodity prices many mines are of late shedding jobs, a situation that drives our employment figures in reverse gear. Namibia must start charting the course of value addition – the earlier, the better. It is not too late, we can do better, we can think smarter and we can turn around some of our bad decisions.

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