A high level of youth unemployment is nothing new to Namibia and the 50.3% expected by end of 2021 did not come as much of a surprise but commentators warn that the status quo might hold dire consequences for Namibia’s famed peace and stability.
With dire economic consequences brought about by fiscal consolidation and compounded by Covid-19, Namibia’s economic woes are likely to linger on for some time and are expected to severely impact the most vulnerable in our society, including the unemployed.
Namibia, with one of the youngest populations in Africa, could reach a staggering 50.3% youth unemployment rate by the end of 2021, according to United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) country representative Sheila Roseau.
The 2018 National Labour Force Survey results stated youth unemployment at 43% in 2016 to 46% by 2018. The most recent figures from the Namibia Statistics Agency (NSA) indicate that the country’s overall unemployment rate dropped slightly from 34% in 2016 to 33.4% in 2018.
“Contributing factors can be traced to policy implementation shortfalls. We have great sounding policy documents that mention aspirations to address youth unemployment, from national development plans, Vision 2030, Harambee Prosperity Plan (HPP1+2), and now the recently reviewed National Youth Policy,” political commentator Rakkel Andreas said. “However, the disconnect between theory and practice has been exposed by the pandemic as it is clear that nothing tangible has really changed for the plight of Namibian youth.” Andreas also pointed to corruption and
its systemic nature as a big contributing
factor. “As long as there are people pocketing money illicitly, that is money that could have been put to good use in avenues such as employment creation,” she said.
“It also does not help much when the job market is struggling to take in unemployed graduates. If anything, it goes to show that the over reliance on government as an employer needs to stop but I am hopeful that public private partnership between government and private sector will likely usher us into an era that will lighten the employment creation burden from government significantly.”
Economist Omu Kakujaha-Matundu believes the economic consequences of half of the most productive labour force being excluded from the economy is obvious.
“Low output, low levels of income, high levels of poverty, poor health, low levels of education for the next generation, feeling of hopelessness, increased level of substance abuse, increased levels of crime and eventually civil unrest,” Kakujaha-Matundu noted as some of the expected consequences of such a high youth unemployment rate.
He noted with the region being invaded by forces poised to destabilise countries, the malaise among young people offers a fertile ground for recruitment. Thus, high levels of youth unemployment are a powder keg waiting to explode.
Kakujaha-Matundu said proper planning and adequate implementation are challenges for the present government. He advised that one crucial factor is the growth of the private sector, which he stated, depends on government for its survival.
He added that fiscal consolidation, which started pre-Covid-19, strangled the private sector and thus the job onslaught started.
“Businesses should become innovative and strategise how they could tap into the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) market. Government can only facilitate the AfCFTA operations but it is the private
sector that should take the lead,” recommended Kakujaha-Matundu.
He added government should engage youth and women entrepreneurs or enterprises and, in all earnest, assist them getting involved in the AfCFTA and other markets.
“Without an expanded market, growing the economy and tackling youth unemployment will remain a pipe dream,” he concluded.
During a press conference on 22 July, the Swapo Party Youth League (SPYL) secretary Ephraim Nekongo labelled youth unemployment “a ticking time bomb that has been building for some time”.
SPYL urged government “to prioritise local business empowerment and enhance the local economy by sourcing locally as much as feasible as well as promote growth at home techniques in all sectors.”
They also encouraged both the private sector and the government to work together to address job creation.
Meanwhile, Popular Democratic Movement Youth League (PDMYL) spokesperson Maximilian Katjimune said the situation currently affects the economy because the majority of the labour force cannot access the job market and are therefore viewed in economic terms as an unused resource.
“This is particularly alarming for our country, especially considering that the youth constitute the significant majority of the working-class population in Namibia,” warned Katjimune.
He further alluded to the fact that the high unemployment rate in Namibia is even more alarming as it threatens the peace fabric of the society.
“It is extremely dangerous for any society to have such high levels of youth unemployment. These are young people that are growing ever more frustrated with the status quo, and the youth unemployment crises in this country can lead us to a serious political crisis which threatens peace and stability in this country,” he added.
Katjimune also claims government has been paying lip service to the unemployment issue, which has escalated year after year. He also noted that serious interventions must be implemented through a wider consultative platform to urgently address the unemployment dilemma.