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Editorial - Agriculture as a catalyst for employment

2023-12-08  Staff Reporter

Editorial - Agriculture as a catalyst for employment

With a combination of investment, innovation, ingenuity and growth, agriculture could become one of the development driving forces across Namibia, helping to address wide-ranging problems from food insecurity to inequitable economic growth and unemployment.  

Looking at the trend, , Namibia’s “factory” for unemployed youth was Grade 10 a few years ago. This factory gradually graduated to Grade 12, which acted as a barrier for thousands of youths to make it to university.

If one made it to university then, employment was almost guaranteed for almost every university graduate.

But today, universities are the “unemployment factories”, producing thousands of BA and honours degree holders who go straight to the streets. The majority are nursing and education graduates. 

This growing trend has obviously fuelled Namibia’s unemployment rate, which is at 23% in the current year. It is expected to be around 22.5% in 2024, according to local econometric models. This projects an increment of 2.5% from 2018.  

However, it is time to stop pinning unemployment on the shortcomings of the education system without cooking up solutions. After all, the education system is not entirely to be blamed but the whole system, including various industries, sectors and specific institutions have a hand in this. All stakeholders need to find solutions. 

We could start with unemployment symposiums. But one approach to Namibia’s youth unemployment crisis is engaging more young people in the agricultural sector. This is because Namibia holds a vast area of uncultivated arable land, yet we consume what we cannot produce. We depend on the imports of almost everything, as even bottled water and toilet paper are imported from South Africa. 

The country has projects such as the Kalimbeza rice project and the Etunda irrigation scheme, which were established by visionaries. However, the generations entrusted with the management of the projects are failing to keep it up. Some projects are more managed by political affairs rather than the will of development and passion for change. 

Etunda, for example, was a thriving farm with several projects, mostly managed by the youth. But today, most of these projects are non-existent. They died natural deaths, with the youth claiming a lack of financial support or lack of market.

It is time to invest in agriculture. It is time to train the youth - not just on sowing and watering crops, but also to equip them with the knowledge of the real value chain, including value-addition to agricultural products. 

However, training alone is not good enough though. Projects need financial support and security mechanisms in place to ensure survival, and only then can we talk with conviction about policies in place.

Namibia’s Industrial Policy, the National Rural Development Strategy, the Harambee Prosperity Plan and the Growth at Home Execution Strategy, among others, are excellent policies. But they can only serve their purpose if what they are meant to address is taken care of from the roots. 

And if we look at these policies, they are all speaking to agriculture and youth development. Think about 11 million youth expected to join the African labour market each year. 

Namibia is not an island - we are part of the global economy. We should ensure that our youth have the tools and experience leading to productive, independent lives, and thus help build a strong middle-class. It is one of our greatest development challenges.

2023-12-08  Staff Reporter

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