Southern Africa: Namibia Improves International Competitiveness

Namibia ranked 94 out of 141 countries in international competitiveness, a change credited to improvements in the country's financial system, business dynamism and information, communications and technology adoption, the World Economic Forum said in their Global Competitiveness Report released last Wednesday.

Annually, a global competitiveness index is computed by the World Economic Forum that strives to measure how countries create best social, economic and environmental conditions for economic development.

The index factors in 12 elements when assessing international competitiveness, takes into account things such as health, education, macro-economic environment, financial market development, business sophistication and technological readiness, among other things.

In recent times, it has become more evident that monetary policy stimulation alone is not enough to drive an economy's growth in the absence of competitive environment.

Countries like Singapore, the United States of America, Switzerland, Germany and Japan have adopted comprehensive competitive agendas, leading the advent of technological innovation.

Most African countries are hamstrung by declining transparency, which puts pressure on future growth.

"Led by Mauritius, sub-Saharan Africa is overall the least competitive region, with 25 of the 34 economies assessed this year scoring below 50," WEF said.

Namibia scored 54,5 on the index level with Egypt. Having previously ranked 100 on global competitiveness, the country pipped the likes of Rwanda, Iran, Guatemala, Kyrgyz Republic and Kenya, moving six positions to 94.

On elements that constitute the index, Namibia scored 4,9 points out of 7 for judicial independence and ranked at position 35, while conversely also ranked at position 45 worldwide for budget transparency.

Namibia ranked 21 globally for freedom of the press, position 47 on incidence of corruption and 44 for intellectual property protection.

On infrastructure, Namibia's road connectivity was ranked at position 5 and 21 for quality of road infrastructure.

WEF noted that access to electricity and exposure to unsafe drinking water is still a problem for Namibia, ranked at position 119 and 103, respectively, in the forementioned areas.

On skills of current workforce, Namibia still lags in digital skills among the active population and ease of finding skilled employees, ranked above 100, while skillset of graduates, quality of vocational training and staff re-training averaged position 70.

WEF indicated that Namibia is still un-welcoming to foreign labour, ranked at position 128 out of 141.

Recently passed regulation 29 by Namfisa was reflected in a score of more than 60%, domestic credit provided to the private sector as a percentage of gross domestic product, earning Namibia position 49 in world rankings.

Funding available to small businesses (SMEs), however, continues to hamper meaningful value creation, the sovereign scored poorly in this category and was thus ranked position 102, although the entrepreneurial spirit keeps growing, as risk appetite, rise in innovative companies and companies enhancing disruptive growth all recorded positives.

DETERMINANTS

International competitiveness is determined by short-run factors such as inflation, exchange rate and long-run factors such as healthcare and education, factors that all influence the level of productivity of goods.

Recently, however, countries have adopted holistic approaches to competing amongst each other for foreign direct investment and highly skilled labour, instead of only relying on conventional means of price competition.

According to WEF, this holistic approach includes provision of better living conditions and improved social protection measures, which have led to countries like Sweden, Denmark and Finland to become more sustainable than their peers.

The world is evolving both environmentally and technologically, meaning sovereign competition now lies in innovation that solves issues brought about by global warming as this has impacts on costs of production.

"Environmental-driven TFP losses may even outweigh the costs associated with transitioning to a low-carbon economy, for instance; climate change is resulting in lower agriculture productivity, more capital depreciation due to infrastructure damage, and a fall in both labour supply and workers' output due to higher temperatures," WEF noted.

The WEF stated that "inequality is not the inevitable by-product of capitalism, but the result of policy choices. The focus should be directed towards increasing equality of opportunities, fostering fair competition, updating tax regimes and improving social protection.

The Global Competitiveness Index 4,0 covers 141 economies, measuring national competitiveness, which the WEF defines as the set of institutions, policies and factors that determine the level of productivity.

GLOBAL SETS

Singapore took the reins this year as the leading competitive economy, overtaking the USA, achieving improvements in its infrastructure, health, labour market and financial system.

Contrary to Namibia, Singapore thrives off talent development, innovation, foreign labour and a meritocratic system that allows people with high skills and creativity to flourish, a system that has transformed the former British colony into a First World country in less than 50 years post-independence.

Namibia has averaged 3,9% of foreign direct investment over the last five years as a percentage of GDP and 3,3% growth on annual GDP growth over a 10 year period, dwarf numbers when compared to the leading economy Singapore's figures, which has attracted more than 20% in FDI as a percentage of GDP over a five year period.

However, Namibia seems to have performed well compared to South Africa which averaged 1% in FDI inflow over five years and 1,6% annual GDP growth for 10 years, reflecting instability in the country.

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