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Opinion - Focus on manufacturing and agriculture to grow Namibia’s economy

2021-11-17  Staff Reporter

Opinion - Focus on manufacturing and agriculture to grow Namibia’s economy
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The rise in agricultural output and income can expand the market for the manufacturing sector, particularly given the migration of surplus labour from agriculture to manufacturing. Manufacturing calls for reindustrialisation in the Namibian economy, based on improving performance through innovation, skills development and reduced input costs in the economy. This emphasis on skills applies across the economy, and will be a centrepiece of partnership with business and labour.

In any economy, the manufacturing sector can potentially play a key role in the overall economic development agenda as well as initiatives geared at employment-creation and the effective reduction of poverty. First, the manufacturing sector is a big employer of both skilled and unskilled labour. Second, at full capacity, the manufacturing sector also contributes significantly to GDP. Third, the manufacturing sector also plays an important role by providing a key link between producers of raw materials and consumers of the manufactured products, thereby situating the sector to play a decisive role in determining the extent to which an economy can be self-sustained. Fourth, the manufacturing sector can also be regarded as the avenue through which to transform itself from being a producer and exporter of primary agricultural products. It also calls for measures to make it easier to import scarce skills by streamlining the work permit and visa system. This will be accompanied by a skills transfer programme to ensure that local skills development is enhanced. Government calls for greater focus by Namibian businesses on opportunities in fast-growing economies.

As agriculture becomes more productive, excess labour moves from rural farm jobs to urban manufacturing jobs. While the result of this stage is a decreased share of agriculture to GDP and the labour force, the process of agricultural modernisation is critical for economic transformation and achieving food security. Engaging youth in agriculture has been a prominent topic and has risen up the development agenda, as there is growing concern worldwide that young people have become disenchanted with agriculture. Despite the decline in interest for agriculture as a career, there are still young farmers working all over the world. To encourage others to join the sector, it is vital that they are offered a voice, and that we take note of what they have to say. Particularly, this includes giving young farmers at policy level a chance to offer their opinion and experiences. In this way, they can show other young people that farming can be a rewarding career, as well as highlighting the important role of agriculture on a global scale. Agriculture is mainly a key for development through the local or regional levels. As we know that most of the people around the world often depend on agricultural production, and that it feeds the world, we’ll need to set up a potential programme for the youth farmers to guarantee their future. 

Bärbel Kirchner, account director of Team Namibia, says: “Through shopping, buying and procuring local, we can impact the economy. This is as relevant when we buy groceries and consumer goods as when we decide where we spend our holidays. How businesses and authorities buy their products and services also has an enormous impact, whether this relates to office supplies, corporate clothing or indeed construction services”. Team Namibia’s mission is to support Namibian businesses by inspiring competitive standards amongst members, stimulating consumer confidence in Namibian products, and positively impacting economic sustainability in line with Vision 2030. There is a need to first evaluate the land reform process and focus on the return of production or increase of production on the farms before embarking on further indigenisation in other sectors. The big problem that the government faces is unemployment. 

The economy still remains fragile. The current recovery may not be sustained in the long-term without meaningful and deeper reforms being undertaken to sustain GDP and other crucial indicators. There is a need for appropriate policies to encourage foreign direct investment. Recently GIZ, sponsored close to N$2 000 000 towards the worldwide expo, which will go towards Namibia’s participation in Dubai to connect with prospective international investors. FDI through transnational companies bring in improved technology, superior management, and has the ability to alter terms of trade in favour of the host country. They also have the ability to create large employment levels with a single investment. Namibia needs such investments to clear the backlog of the unemployed. This, therefore, shows that although the government is expected to play a role in boosting the sector, the private sector has to play the larger part by remaining conscious to market needs, and responding to it through innovation and strategising. This calls for a need to embrace new technologies as required by the dynamic manufacturing environment.

In conclusion, the neglect of the agricultural sector, and a call to revive the economy through a huge concentration on agriculture is motivated so as to turn the economy into a large production base. In addition to this, such effort would stimulate the performance of other notable sectors like manufacturing and solid minerals. The focus should still be on the agricultural sector as the last resort to the lingering Namibian unemployment crisisn and increase food security. This would be an avenue to integrate the manufacturing sector, as it would equally be empowered through the provision of needed raw materials which in the long run can foster forward and backward linkages.

 

*The opinions expressed in the article are that of the author alone, and are in no way linked to his employer or any affiliates.


2021-11-17  Staff Reporter

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