By Heinrich Mihe Gaomab II
THE Africa Competitiveness Report provides detailed analytical profiles for 35 African countries, as well as a comprehensive summary of the drivers of productivity and competitiveness within the continent.
In the case of Namibia, the country is competitively stable and slowly improving. On a global scale, Namibia has moved up by four places, to 84th from 88th position, since 2015.
In Africa, it is currently in sixth place. Namibia is, however, stable across all indices, and so are Mauritius, South Africa and Rwanda, with Botswana consistently at the top.
Namibia improved, due to the uptake of fixed line and mobile broadband technology, increased secondary school enrolment, increased life expectancy, due to improved health services, improved airline seat utilisation and the increased strength of investor protection.
Generally, the country continues to benefit from a relatively well-functioning institutional environment, with well-protected property rights, an independent judiciary, and fairly nascent, but strengthened, competition regulation of minority shareholding protection. The country’s transport infrastructure is also good, by regional standards, and financial markets continue to be reasonably developed, despite constrained access to finance.
Namibia, however, needs improvement on the inefficient provision of financial products and services, as a result of constrained access to finance. It also has relatively low-skilled and educated workforce, adverse work ethic, and inefficient rail infrastructure.
In order to improve its competitiveness, Namibia must improve its skills capacity through an improved education system. To move up the regional economic chain and diversify its economy, Namibia must increase its efforts to build its human resource base. There has already been an acknowledgement that higher school enrolment rates are critical, and this is commendable, on the part of the government. In addition, Namibia could do more to harness new technologies, through developing a knowledge management culture, to improve its productivity levels.
The above shows that Namibia has the potential to improve its ranking and is on the right path to be among the top twenty in the world, by the visionary year 2030. There are, however, lingering concerns that economic exclusion and income inequality are the key constraints to Namibia’s path to a higher ranking on the competitiveness index.
More importantly, as the theme for the African Competitiveness Report advocates, more than a decade of consistently high growth has not yet trickled down to all segments of the population. There is need for deliberative intervention to affect reduced income inequality and the policy measure on the New Equitable Economic Empowerment Framework, which is in the process of being legislated, is welcomed. Aspects on public procurement for small business and preferential treatment, in terms of competitive bidding, are key for addressing high levels of income inequality.
Deliberate market intervention, through competition regulation to correct market deficiencies and distortions, to ensure broad-based business and commercial expansion, are key to reducing over-concentrations and breaking up market dominance.
There is no denying the fact that according to labour force surveys in Namibia, the current unemployment ranks constitute largely youth aged between 15 and 24 years. There is anecdotal evidence that shows that it is increasingly difficult for young people to find work in Namibia – partly because there are not enough jobs and partly because the young do not have the skills or the right education that are in demand in the labour market. Currently, too few young people are given opportunities to improve their skills, in areas that will enhance their employability and enterpreneurabilty.
Going forward, the main challenge will therefore be to turn high growth into inclusive growth, touching more of the youth population. This will require focusing on efforts to transition from the still largely primary sector agriculture, fishing and mining-based economy, to higher value-added activities, in order to move the workforce out of rural agriculture and mining, as well as urban, unemployed dwellings, into more productive and service-oriented sectors.
It is encouraging that the focused and performance-based Harambee Prosperity Plan, with clear timeliness, provides an accelerated economic strategy for Namibia, which is increasingly realising the goal of ensuring inclusive and broad-based growth for Namibia. The government should be highly commended in that regard.
*Heinrich Mihe Gaomab II is the Executive Director of the African Development Bank representing Angola, Namibia, Mozambique and Zimbabwe.
Confidente. Lifting the Lid. Copyright © 2015