Namibia: Universities Can Nurse Economy Back to Growth

12 February 2020

University communities have a role to play in nursing the ailing economy in addition to their core mission of educating and cultivating a form of knowledge for the new generation, says Morne du Toit.

Du Toit, the acting vice chancellor of the Namibia University of Science and Technology (Nust), said this at the official opening of the academic year this week.

The theme for the university's new academic year is 'Innovation for Economic Revitalisation'. The acting vice chancellor said the university chose the theme to remind its community that they all have a part to play in nursing the Namibian economy back to health.

"While we retain our core mission of educating the next generation and cultivating new forms of knowledge, universities must also embrace an ever-expanding role in driving innovation and catalysing economic development," Du Toit said.

He challenged the academic community and students to think of new ideas that can be implemented to solve the challenges facing the country.

"Start by thinking about your surroundings. How can you use the knowledge you gain through your course to find solutions to the challenges in your communities? This is how we, as educated people, can truly contribute to building our economy," the vice-chancellor said.

As such, he gave an assurance that entrepreneurship training was and would be an essential and mandatory part of the Nust curriculum.

Du Toit also highlighted that changing demand for technology has particularly affected the demand for particular occupations and skills, such as problem-solving, networking, negotiating and managing complex processes.

He said industries are demanding graduates who are ready to produce and demand less on-the-job training.

Regarding high university fees, the vice chancellor said these are not meant to keep potential students away, but rather to keep the university afloat.

"By no means are the fees meant to be insensitive to students' financial circumstances, which are highly likely exacerbated by the current economic climate," stated Du Toit.

Poiyah Media founder Ilke Platt, who was the main speaker at the opening ceremony, said the theme 'Innovation for Economic Revitalisation' should be understood by each student, lecturer, staff or anyone that has an association with the university community.

Platt dedicated her speech to the students and women and encouraged them that right from the beginning of their career paths, they should keep broadening their possibilities by gearing themselves mentally for the real world.

She said the world is entering a new era, as much is changing and revolutionising and women are starting to take up space.

"Let us always be reminded that we (women) are human beings with emotions that can be controlled in the boardroom, just as much as men can. That we can stand together and support fellow women in whichever respective industry," stated Platt.

Late last month, Akinwumi Adesina, the president of the African Development Bank, reminded students of the important role they have to play in the continent's economic development.

Adesina had said economic transformation needed dedicated people with the right knowledge and skills.

The Namibian reported earlier this year that many missing elements in the key sector's value chain can be established and maintained if students, especially, are willing to take up the challenge.

For example, the World Bank Group senior advisory team [Simeon Ehui and Irina Klytchnikova], in their publication 'Adapting Africa's Agriculture in Times of Climate Change', said only 2% of Africa's students specialise in agriculture, even though agriculture contributes 32% to Africa's gross domestic product.

The lack of value addition has led to an underdeveloped value chain in many economic sectors and a concerted effort should be made to improve this, the World Bank advisers had said.

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