The 2021 State of the Nation Address by President Hage G. Geingob was an indication of government’s efforts at strengthening resilience. Despite negative energies and unwarranted efforts by the opposition to stray off the agenda of SONA and choose chaos, the President has set the political programme, going forward, and ticked three boxes: i) Optimism (ii) Decisiveness and (iii) Certainty.
For some commentators and writers to claim that the 2021 SONA was uninspiring and offered ‘predictable regurgitations’ is quite simply put, untrue. The editor of Namibian Sun in particular deliberately in his editorial of 16 April 2021 ignored critical and important information that the SONA reported on. If not, he might not even have followed the SONA or read it to say that it offered nothing new.
The President did not only emphasise the central themes of eradicating poverty, and fighting corruption and inequalities that continue to plague our country, but the admission of current challenges indicates that there is still much more to be done, despite the gains government has made. The President delivered the SONA partly by way of categorising the issues addressed by pillars in the Harambee Prosperity Plan II.
Three key principles were highlighted, namely (i) the updating of the national fixed assets, (ii) completion of the state-owned enterprise’s reform process, and lastly the (iii) implementation and seeding of a Sovereign Wealth Fund. These three key principles are important to understand the desired nature and drive by which the current administration seeks to turn around the fortunes of our economy towards sustainable and functional growth. Recklessly saying the principles won`t achieve anything is premature and a disregard of genuine efforts by the government towards economic recovery.
The government is not only identifying assets to ensure their productivity, such as the Green Schemes and the Neckartal Dam in the green economy, but is also focusing on the reform of institutions, especially the SOEs, by strengthening partnerships between the public and private sectors through the Public-Private Partnership Framework to prepare for projects worth an estimated N$27 billion to improve the livelihoods of Namibians of all classes.
Other key highlights would be the clean energy and fuels potential of Luderitz, which shine a light on the green economy, the constitution of the Green Hydrogen Council, the Namibian Investment Promotion & Development Board, and the recent launch of the Namibian Revenue Authority, and of course a personal favourite would be the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) taskforce. It is not certain if the editor of the Namibian Sun had seen these developments in previous SONAs.
The SONA has further righteously accounted for spending, decisions taken, plans and shortcomings in relation to government`s actions and programmes during Covid-19. Covid-19 presented a real test of government`s commitment, and how far the government is willing to go towards the safeguarding of the health of Namibians and their livelihoods. Under the Social Progression pillar, it is evident how social spending safeguards the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of Namibians, of which the figure is annually at one million of our overall citizens.
The extension of the School-Feeding Programme to secondary schools and early childhood development centres will have an immense boost in the provision of access to education, and is a step closer to rooting out malnutrition amongst children.
Other notable issues are the establishment of the Teachers’ Professional Regulatory Body, Rollout of a National Internship & Apprenticeship Programme, and the establishment of an Industry Skills Committee. These are all very strategic efforts to ensure the system responds to the plight of out-of-school youth, students, job-seeking graduates and youth leading entrepreneurial start-ups. Again, for the editor to claim that the President was off-script is quite frankly not a true reflection of the 2021 SONA.
Lastly, on the last two pillars, being Infrastructure Development and International Relations, President Geingob on the former spoke at length about energy, and how government has managed to achieve zero load shedding. He also spoke very much at length about the extension of services around electrification, water, roads, rail and education infrastructure. The reader and the editor are therefore invited to peruse the President’s speech, and also supplement it with reading from the HPP II to get in-depth information about these plans and projects.
President Geingob ended off his speech by saying that our current test as a generation is to overcome the coronavirus and restore the economic integrity of our Republic, but not before committing Namibia to Agenda 2063 and the flagship African Continental Free-Trade Area Agreement, through which Namibia should derive tangible benefits.
A recurring position by His Excellency, and very much welcomed, is his commitment to press freedom. With Namibia hosting the World Press Freedom Day 2021, coinciding with the 30th Anniversary of the Windhoek Declaration, President Geingob is an engaging Namibian President with the media fraternity, and remains so.
It now remains our inherent responsibility to continue to add value and critically engage government on their plans, and play our part in championing the country`s development agenda.
Finally, the SONA inspired us not to shun struggle or responsibility by remaining unbroken and resilient, and by rising to “build a more unified and stronger Namibia.”