columnBy Martin Mwinga
I DEDICATE this article to all those able-bodied men and women who are willing and able to work, but cannot find employment. According to official government statistics, half of all able-bodied Namibians cannot find work and remain unemployed for a long time.
Annually many Namibian school-leavers and graduates after investing large sums of money to further their education with a qualification will join the army of unemployed people and have to depend on relatives and good Samaritans to make ends meet. Did you know that, you the unemployed have become the main priority for government?
I have no doubt that government this time is serious and will deliver on its promise of implementing supporting measures and programmes to reduce unemployment. In this article, I will share with you those opportunities that you can take advantage of and what you, the jobless individual, could do to ensure your voice is heard and you are taken seriously by your government.
2012 Cabinet Reshuffle: The 2012 Cabinet reshuffle announced by His Excellency President Pohamba breathed new life into government and the country, and once again gave hope to many Namibians, and presents many opportunities for citizens, especially you the unemployed.
The re-organized Cabinet was given a clear mandate to redirect government resources to fight and reduce the high unemployment rate and poverty in the country. In addition, the ruling Swapo Party held its congress and passed resolutions intended to deal with the situation of unemployment.
It is clear that the honeymoon is over, the message was clear, and the Cabinet reshuffle was a clear message to our national leaders that they must put the interest of Namibians above their personal interests and I am confident that we are going to see action this year and beyond.
As I write, my intelligence source tells me that both the ruling party leadership and the new re-organized Cabinet are hard at work to introduce projects and programmes to tackle the high unemployment rate head on. These opportunities will not come in the form of handouts, but will be announced in the form of policy measures and programmes.
For example, government will announce a policy that will provide free farming equipment, access to finance without collateral, preferential tender awards to unemployed people, free vocational training for the unemployed, etc. The question is, are you ready to take advantage of these new opportunities?
Register a Company: You cannot do business and benefit significantly from government programmes and projects if you do not own or belong to a legal organization. Join hands with other unemployed people and register a company in the form of a close corporation, private company or a non-profit organization (NGO).
Once you have formed your organization prepare a business plan focusing on the business you want to conduct. You will need a sponsor to finance the registration of your new organization and the preparation of a business plan. Sell your idea to few established companies and individuals and offer them a minority stake or shareholding of not more than 25 percent in your new venture in order for them to participate and continue funding your new business.
2013/14 Government Budget: Whatever programme and projects government decides to introduce to fight unemployment will need to be funded and this will be done through the national budget. Namibia's Minister of Finance will be tabling the national budget by end of February or mid-March 2013, and based on the estimates made in 2012, around N$42 billion Namibian dollars will be spent on the economy in 2013. You cannot receive money from government, unless you have a legal organization that can participate and submit tenders.
Through your company, you can get contracts from government to supply school uniforms, computers, furniture, machinery, build roads, build houses, and supply food to schools, hospitals, supply workplace uniforms, and many more services. (I will bring you more details on how you can benefit from the government budget as we approach the tabling of the national budget).
Acquire Land: Identify unused and un-serviced land and approach your town council or traditional authorities to allocate your new organization with land that can be used to construct houses or set up new businesses and industries.
Once you receive the offer from the authorities to purchase the land, you can approach an established business or individuals and form a partnership with them so that they can bring in funding to develop the land, for example by constructing houses, or by starting an agriculture project etc.
Unemployed Movement or Union: The time has come for you the unemployed to organize yourselves into a formidable movement or union that will have bargaining power with government, just like employed people have a voice, because they operate under a union with bargaining power. The high unemployment rate in Namibia is not because Namibia is poor or that government has no resources to implement job creation projects, but it is partly the failure by government to initiate and implement projects timeously.
Because there is no pressure from you the unemployed and politicians know that you are too busy worrying about where the next meal will come from they are more likely to be complacent and relax. An unemployment movement will be able to exert pressure on government for you to receive unemployment benefits and for those in positions of power to ensure full implementation of job creation programmes. The main goal of your movement should be peaceful with the main aim of helping government solve the problem of unemployment.
Below are some activities your union could embark on:
Registration of all unemployed people in Namibia: Ensure that all unemployed people register with your movement countrywide, so that in each region you know who is unemployed and why they are unemployed;
Voice of the Unemployed: Your movement should be the voice for the unemployed and always remind government of its obligation to deliver on its promises. Exert pressure on government that every project or tender awarded by government must benefit your members. For example if government awards a tender, your union must get a share of the profits to be derived from that project;
Establish an Unemployment Fund: Namibians are known for their solidarity and the 400 000 currently employed will be ready to support you the unemployed and make a monthly contribution to this fund. In addition, you can lobby government to impose an unemployment levy on the income or profits of all SOEs and private companies. My initial calculation is that with an average monthly contribution from those employed of say N$20, and a 0.75% levy on assets of pension funds and insurance companies, 0.5% on revenue of SOEs and private companies the fund will raise close to N$1.5 billion annually, excluding government contributions. These funds could then be used to support your members find employment, finance business projects initiated by unemployed people, support skills development and fund the running of the administration of your countrywide offices;
Exert pressure on government to support your members to start micro and small business through preferential tender allocations and for government to provide collateral for you to have access to finance to start new businesses.
Political Connections: It is possible, you are only convincing yourself that you are not politically connected and therefore it will not be possible for you to win a government contract. Do not be discouraged, just do your part and prepare your proposal and submit it to the relevant authorities and leave everything in God's hands. Some years ago, at a time when I was viewed to be too critical of the government budget and policies, and when I was not even welcome in some government offices, I submitted a proposal to seek government funding to build an income-generating project in my community. Some government officials advised me that because my name appeared on the project proposal as a project promoter, government would not accept the project. To their surprise, the project I submitted was the only successful project from my region out of many projects submitted. Although I had only requested N$1.5 million, the government increased the amount allocated to the project and today my community owns a project with assets to the value of more than N$10 million dollars and income generated from this project is financing education and other income-generating projects in the region.
So don't be discouraged by others, just make sure that your project proposal is aligned to the national priorities of government and is geared towards fighting unemployment and poverty.
• Martin Mwinga works for First Capital Treasury Solutions.