Namibia: Ad773 - Namibian Youth Demand That Government Make Job Creation a Top Priority

23 February 2024

Young citizens are more educated than their elders, but also more unemployed.

Key findings

  • Unemployment ranks at the top among problems that Namibian youth (aged 18-35 years) want their government to address, followed by water supply and corruption.
  • Namibian youth have more education than their elders. Nearly eight in 10 youth (79%) have secondary or post-secondary schooling, compared to 67% in the 36-55 age group and 43% in the over-55 age group.
  • But they are also more likely to be unemployed: More than four in 10 young Namibians (44%) say they are looking for a job, compared to 36% of middle-aged and 9% of older citizens.
  • Young citizens' assessments of the government's performance on their priority issues are generally unfavourable, including just 16% approval of the government's efforts on job creation.
  • While a slim majority (52%) of young Namibians approve of the job performance of the late President Hage Geingob, fewer than half endorse the performance of their prime minister (46%), members of the National Assembly (48%), representatives to the National Council (49%), and their elected regional councillor (47%).
  • Only 37% of Namibian youth describe their personal living conditions as "fairly good" or "very good," while 49% say they are bad.
  • Young Namibians are less likely than their elders to engage in political and civic activities, including voting, contacting leaders, attending community meetings, and joining others to raise an issue.

Namibia's youth face major challenges in a constrained economy with high unemployment. The most recent Labour Force Survey, conducted in 2018, revealed that unemployment among the country's youth (defined as ages 15-34 years) stood at an astounding 46.1% (Ndjavera, 2022; Tendane, Hartman, & Alberts, 2023). On Namibia's Independence Day last March, discontented youth took to the streets to protest against joblessness, and political leaders have warned repeatedly that the youth unemployment crisis could lead to social unrest (Matthys, 2023; Petersen, 2023; New Era Live, 2023).

Are policy makers paying attention to the needs of young Namibians?

The quest to address the needs of Namibia's youth is captured in the vision of the government's third National Youth Policy (2020-2030), which seeks to achieve holistic youth development through a focus on four key thematic pillars: health and well-being, education and skills training, employment and economic empowerment, and political and civic participation (Ministry of Sport, Youth & National Service, 2021; UNFPA Namibia, 2021).

Government initiatives to reduce unemployment in the country include the Namibia Youth Credit Scheme, designed to encourage and support youth entrepreneurship through loans to unemployed young people who do not qualify for funding through the mainstream banking system (Ministry of Sport, Youth & National Service, 2024). The government has also focused efforts on closing the skills gap in the labour market through technical and vocational education and training (Namibia Economist, 2023).

The National Youth Council has inaugurated a national task force charged with implementing recommendations of the targeted review report on youth unemployment by the African Peer Review Mechanism (Lucas, 2023; Simelane, 2023).

The 2020 Global Youth Development Index ranked Namibia 119th out of 181 countries when it comes to promoting youth education, employment, health, equality and inclusion, peace and security, and political and civic participation, placing it ahead of its neighbours South Africa (No. 131), Eswatini (No. 152), Zimbabwe (No. 159), Lesotho (No. 163), Angola (No. 166), and Mozambique (No. 173) (Commonwealth Secretariat, 2021).

A 2021 Afrobarometer survey provides an on-the-ground look at the situation of youth in Namibia. Findings show that Namibian youth (defined here as ages 18-35) have more education than their elders but are also more likely to be unemployed. Unemployment is by far the most important problem that young Namibians want their government to address.

Fewer than half of the youth demographic approve of the way the prime minister, members of the National Assembly, representatives of the National Council, and elected regional councillors have performed their jobs. Though powerful in number, Namibian youth are less engaged than their elders in change-making activities such as voting, contacting leaders, and attending community meetings.

Asafika Mpako Asafika is the communications coordinator for Southern Africa

Stephen Ndoma Stephen is the assistant project manager for Southern Africa

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