Poverty in Namibia still bears a distinct rural face, with the poorest regions being those in which the majority of the population live in rural areas of the country. Namibia is one of just nine countries in Africa categorized by the World Bank as “upper middle income”. Poverty in Namibia, however, is still prevalent, and the country is rife with extreme wealth imbalances which are terrifying indeed.
And the Namibian population continues to be susceptible to poverty. Rated as a high middle income country, Namibia’s poverty and inequality levels are among the highest in the world. The poverty line strikes the Namibian population from poor to extremely poor since over 10% of the Namibian population live in abject poverty yet the country is rich in mineral resources which are supposed to be shared to alleviate poverty.
The apparent imbalance between Namibia’s high income and the simultaneous extreme prevalence of poverty can be traced to enduring income inequalities in the country as the gap between the rich and poor remains wide. Globally, Namibia has the third highest levels of income inequality, according to the World Bank. One study by the National Bureau of Economic Research showed Namibia as having the highest levels of wealth inequality in the world in 2000; this is very disturbing in a rich country but with poor nationals.
Namibia is known for its extreme inequality when it comes to income and wealth distribution, which is one of the highest societal inequalities in the world despite the country’s endowment with abundant natural resources, excellent if not good infrastructure, a vibrant democracy that gives autonomy to its people for self-governance, and peace and stability which is prevailing to date. It is thus disheartening in this democratic country, with a painful feeling of humiliation or distress, to see Namibians plunged in abject poverty and still living with a huge gap of inequality.
In March 2015, His Excellency the President of the Republic of Namibia “declared war” on poverty, with his first focus on the problem of hunger. The President pledged to create a food bank with branches across the entire country to eradicate poverty. The question is, will the food bank be able to sustain itself in the long term or is it a temporary programme to do damage control. Namibia is one of the countries with vast land for agricultural projects which can indeed replace the food bank. These projects will create employment and produce adequate food for the country and for export and by so doing the cost of purchasing food from shelves and imports is reduced drastically.
A large number of Namibian households rely on wages and salaries as their main source of income. In rural areas Namibian households depend on subsistence farming as the main source of income. These figures indicate the critical importance that wages and salaries have for the survival of Namibian households. This is further emphasised by the fact that most Namibian households lack a secondary source of income. In rural areas most of the households have no secondary source of income. Yet we have the national need to explore ways to foster economic growth and development.
The Basic Income Grant (BIG) of N$100 per person per month, without any conditions attached, was proposed. The high levels of inequality and poverty are economically unsustainable and that was deemed the best method of addressing poverty and inequality as a universal income grant, but this was regarded by some as an unaffordable welfare measure which was also discouraged by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) from being implemented.
There is clearly a need for targeted interventions in terms of resource allocation. It is important that, as a long-term strategy, investment in education is used to reduce poverty, while short-term service delivery is also crucial for poverty reduction.
It is widely conceded that a negative relationship between education and poverty clearly exists in the country. Therefore, the national policies and a national agenda for poverty reduction need to be localised in order to make a notable impact in the lives of every Namibian.
It is also imperative to gain a better understanding of the sectors, projects and programmes, as well as the institutional factors driving the reported reductions in the poverty headcount. It requires a concerted effort from individual to government and the private sector to alleviate poverty and dismantle the inequality system to accommodate full shares of the economy and build Namibia to be a better country with an equity