Namibia: A Bigger Employers Base Can Reduce Unemployment - Panel

13 November 2019

THE high-level panel on the Namibian economy has proposed that the focus should be on expanding the employers' and job creators' base to solve the current unemployment crisis.

The panel proposed demand-side interventions through manufacturing, tourism and agriculture as well as apprenticeships for employment-creation in the country.

The high-level panel on the Namibian economy (HLPNE) put their recommendations in a report prepared for the Employment- Creation Seminar in September 2019, held in conjunction with the ministry of labour.

The panel indicated that in 2019, more than a third (36%) of graduates took more than two years to find their first job, compared to 19% in 2017, while 52% of graduates took up to six months to get a job in 2019, contrasted to 37% in 2017.

The economy still relies on the government to provide employment, and as of 2019, the public sector took up 51% of the working population population, falling from 59% in 2017.

The report stated that a holistic approach is needed to tackle unemployment by looking at the demand and supply side of the labour market.

The panel advised that the starting point should be policies such as macro-economic and sectoral policies, and to match forces of demand and supply, indicating that looking at skills is important, but is not enough.

The country also needs to reintroduce the apprenticeship system, which can be achieved by making sure that Namibia has a fully contextualised apprenticeship system and policy coordination.

"We need to get institutions of higher education together with employers and unions about the curriculum, and the designed curriculum should be in line with the fourth Industrial Revolution and be revised regularly, with inputs from the private sector," the panel urged.

They said the country should also take advantage of its ranking in the tourism index and its infrastructure, and stimulate employment in that sector.

Namibia ranks fourth in Africa and 81st in the world with regards to tourism.

The panel highlighted that impediments such as the professional drivers permit in some categories prohibits persons under the age of 25 to get this permit required by tour operators.

"This prevents the youth to be employed in jobs requiring this permit in the industry," the panel pointed out.

They also advised that the country needs an 'all of government' approach to educational reform to introduce tourism and basic customer service in schools, as well as in-house training.

For the agricultural sector that fails to attract the youth, the panel advised the need for the National Training Authority to enhance funding and the accreditation of training institutions that cater for programmes which provide skills for semi-skilled labour, which is needed more in the agricultural sector.

The panel suggested that higher educational institutions review their curricula to introduce courses that are attractive to the youth, as well as to introduce technology in the sector relevant to market requirements such as agribusiness.

They added that certification bodies are likewise needed for Namibian products.

"There is also a need to consider a 'Water Indaba' in Namibia, as water is a critical requirement in the agricultural sector," suggested the panel.

As for the construction sector which retrenched 28% of its workforce since 2016, with 45 057 jobs lost since 2018, the panel proposed that barriers to entry be removed.

These include revising the requirement of a company to provide a 10-year performance guarantee, and creating state-backed guarantees in public procurement for SME contractors to qualify to bid for bigger projects.

The panel added that requirements for loan-funded projects such as those from the African Development Bank (AfDB) should be renegotiated to make it possible for local contractors to meaningfully participate in projects.

The AfDB tenders currently running in the ministry of education demand that contractors provide their annual turnover for five years, or more than N$2 million as security for them to bid.

Turning to manufacturing, the panel proposed that the ministry of trade should aggressively look at programmes that incentivise the private sector to innovate and invest in the marketing of local traditional food beverages to the rest of the world.

The panel also recommended that the finance and trade ministries complete the special economic zone framework, and the package of incentives for the manufacturing sector, without further delay.

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