Environment and tourism minister Pohamba Shifeta believes a transition to a greener economy offers an opportunity for the country to move out of the Covid-19 crisis towards a future that is food, water and energy-secure.
The Covid-19 fallout has seen Namibia recording a decline of about 87% in international tourist arrivals in 2020. This overnight collapse has translated into a massive loss of thousands of jobs, with the closure of many tourism-related businesses.
Shifeta made these remarks last week at the third sustainable development awards organised by the Environmental Investment Fund (EIF). He noted that at the broader level, government has been affected by a sharp decline in foreign exchange and tax revenues, which has further curbed public spending capacity and the ability to deploy the measures necessary to support livelihoods through the Covid-19 crisis.
“In Namibia, as in almost all other countries, the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the economy has been devastating and unprecedented.
The pandemic has affected the operations of many businesses, people’s working lives and indeed their personal lives,” he said.
Shifeta added that there is a need for people to navigate their way out of the pandemic’s fallout, based on the hard lessons people are learning. “The disruption to supply chains and difficulties in the cross-border movements of goods and people brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic has brought into focus our over-reliance on other countries for essential foodstuffs and other manufactured goods,” he stated.
This is thus an important departure point as Namibians rethink the country’s approach to economic growth and socio-economic development. “This will have the knock-on benefits of enhancing climate change resilience, creating decent employment opportunities, and reducing income inequality.
It is for this reason that accelerating the green economy transition is key to our development as a nation,” the minister reasoned. In its annual report for 2020, the Bank of Namibia stated that activity in the tourism sector fell precipitously last year, largely affected by the Covid-induced travel restrictions and social distancing considerations.
The sector was estimated to have contracted massively by 33.1% in 2020 after registering a marginal positive growth rate of 2.8% in 2019. The contraction was manifested in sharp declines in the number of bed and room nights sold by the hospitality industry, as well as in regional and international passenger arrivals at Namibian airports.