Namibia: So Rich, Yet So Poor - Challenge of Kavango Regions

The Bank of Namibia has stepped in with advice on the enhancement of economic development and employment creation in the Kavango East and West regions.

The two regions have remained poor despite being endowed with substantial natural resources such as water, forestry and fertile arable land.

The central bank involvement also highlights the recognition that the rural economy is equally important as the urban.

Most of the green schemes are in the two regions, the Okavango Delta is full of lodges, timber harvesting, and much more are happening in the two regions, the latest being oil exploration. However, none of these activities is bringing significant economic life to the two regions.

The central bank's spokesperson, Kazembire Zemburuka, in a press release last week, said the socio-economic situation in the two regions is "a cause for concern, especially against the backdrop of this untapped potential in sectors such as agriculture, tourism, and manufacturing".

In pursuit of economic growth and development, the central bank has submitted recommendations to the Ministry of Agriculture, Water, and Land Reform and relevant stakeholders centred on five areas with the potential to inject economic life into the two regions.

The areas of focus Bank of Windhoek identified are sustainable funding and management of the green schemes, timber manufacturing, cattle marketing, horticultural production and investment in renewable energy.

The central bank analysis says its focus areas will contribute significantly to employment creation, while ensuring food security for the country.

The central bank said the development programme can be unlocked through private sector investment.

"Leveraging on private sector investment is the best and sustainable model towards economic recovery and advancement," said Zemburuka.

As in the aspirations of the recently launched Harambee Prosperity Plan II, which conceded that recovery relies more on the private sector investments than on the financially constrained government.

He said their assessment of the two regions identified new potential projects and areas of investment that once explored and fully executed, can improve the economic situation in the Kavango regions.

The assessment also explored suitable funding models for the identified projects with relevant stakeholders to actualise the developmental aspirations of both regions, revealed Zemburuka.

Unlike previous interventions, the central bank hopes its proposed investment avenue will provide enough momentum to unlock the economic potential of the two regions.

"The Bank of Namibia is convinced that the targeted interventions in the five identified focus areas, both in terms of investments and reforms, can significantly unlock the economic potential in the two regions," he said.

The long-term economic gains to be realised through the targeted interventions are projected to create employment opportunities and uplift the standard of living of the inhabitants of the two regions while contributing to the country's economic growth and advancement.

Zemburuka said consultations with the relevant stakeholders concerning the implementation of the recommendations are ongoing.

Namibia Statistics Agency poverty statistics show that Kavango East has one of the highest poverty levels, with poverty levels above the national average of 17,4%.

First Capital's economy profile of Rundu, the capital city of Kavango West, done in 2018, shows that bout 40% of residents in the area are living in traditional structures. This is much higher than the national average.

A minority 11% of the residents in the town are living in impoverished (shacks) structures. The profile also indicates that Rundu has a housing backlog.

About 37% of families live in detached structures (stand-alone houses), the First Capital profile reveals.

The profile also reveals that over the medium-term (2018/19-2020/21) the government budgeted N$24,3 billion on capital projects in the country.

Allocations by regions show that from the 14 regions, the two Kavango regions, together with Omaheke, are the least funded by the development budget - all below the billion-dollar mark.

The profile recommends more investment in agriculture and businesses to diversify sources of income for Rundu's population.

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