Patrick Nyambe Masiziani
In many instances, government plans do not come to fruition and as a result, the country’s citizens are denied access to basic services, this is attributed to poor or lack of proper planning. Innovation implies turning the worst scenarios into opportunities a case of the Neckartal Dam in the southern part of this country.
Namibia has witnessed milestone investments in infrastructure development with the recent one being the completion of the Neckral dam in the southern part of the country. It goes without saying that God blessed the Nation, especially the southern parts of the country with good rains this year resulting in the Neckral dam getting to its full capacity. This happened after three years of prolonged drought spells in the country starting from 2018 and stretching through 2020. The other notable infrastructure development is the ongoing upgrade of the Hosea Kutako International Airport (HKIA) and the dual carriage road from Windhoek to the Airport as well as the dual-carriage road from Windhoek Okahandja. However, the case of Neckartal Dam is a shocking example to analyse, this is because, after massive investments in billions of dollars into the country’s largest dam, it appears that government has no proper plan on how to immediately reap benefits from the infrastructure development of this magnitude.
The main idea for the construction of the dam of this scale was to harvest water for irrigation purposes for example for massive production of dates and grapes meant for export to European markets and local consumption. This initiative is believed to contribute to the country’s Gross National Product (GNP). Though the project is envisaged in two phases, one is meant to think there will be an enormous opportunity missed with the dam being full this year, and as such opportunity will never be regained. This is because natural phenomenon such as evaporation of water from the dam into the atmosphere is taking place, meaning by end of this year the level of the Neckartal dam will not be the same (what a wasted opportunity). And who knows things may turn out that in two to three years to come the amount of rainfall to be received in that part of the country might dwindle making the harvesting of water impossible.
The multi-million dollars question that remains to be answered is whether government plans for success or failure? On one hand, the question that may arise is doing government have the appropriate capacity to execute some projects. The fact that government didn’t plan properly in regard to the utilisation of this multi-billion-dollar project, literally means losing out millions of dollars from the onset. The analysis, therefore, is that has government planned properly this year would have witnessed a boom in grape and date production and consequently earning enormous gross domestic product (GDP) from this initiate this year alone. In simple language, proper planning according to this analysis means while the construction of the Neckartal Dam was ongoing, the clearing and preparations of land for massive grape and date plantations was also supposed to have kicked off so that the two could be completed at the same time. Government proponents might argue that this was not going to be possible because of budgetary constraints, but the reality is that the completion of the dam without utilising it is a wasted opportunity given its full capacity at the moment. Considering the amount of investments towards the construction of the Neckartal Dam it is imperative to state that the earlier government starts to reap the benefits the better for cost recovery purposes. It is of no use that we have a dam of that size full of water without reaping benefits from it. That on its own entails poor planning at its best.
There are a lot of benefits that comes with the completion of the Neckartal Dam if only proper planning was in place. Given its proximity to the fish river canyon, the dam could be a tourist destination, especially during its flooding seasons.
This is the case with Victoria Falls located between the Zambian and Zimbabwean borders, whereby tourists’ flocks to that destination to view the beautiful scenery during its flooding. As the country recovers from the Covid-19 pandemic, it is important to start to think critically about how to attract tourists since the tourism industry is the hardest hit by the pandemic. It goes without saying that investment in World-class Hotels and Lodges within the proximity of the Neckartal Dam is of paramount importance. In addition, recreational activities such as Boat cruising could add value to the attraction of tourists.
The other potential opportunity government could tap from the Neckartal Dam is the envisaged hydro-power generation as is the case at Ruacana hydro-power plant. This additional hydro-power plant could ease the burden of importing power from neighbouring South Africa at a higher price, as a result, paving way for the country to supply affordable electricity to its citizens.
It is high time Namibia should start to be sustainable in all avenues be it food self-sufficient, energy generation and many more examples. Lessons from the Covid-19 pandemic has taught us that depending solely on other countries can be catastrophic at times as witnessed during lockdowns. The issue of power generation is something that our government should take seriously for the development of this country. The other possibilities are to invest heavily in solar energy given the abundance of sunlight in the country. In the end, the ripple effect of such investments will trickle down to the poor through cheaper or reasonable price for electricity.
The same analogy can be said that if government invest heavily in food production via green schemes the price for food items will dropdown. It is embarrassing to note that after 30 years of independence Namibia still imports agricultural produce like tomatoes, cabbage, potatoes and onions from neighbouring South Africa. The question that needs to be answered is what happened to the founding President’s dream for Namibia to be a self-reliant country in food production.
The analysis herein is a wakeup call for all concerned ministries and government agencies, such as the ministries of agriculture, finance, environment, the National Planning Commission, mines and energy, public enterprises, NamWater, NamPower and the Namibia Tourism Board.
It goes without saying that the concept of innovation implies planning, collaborating and networking amongst parties concerned with development rather than working in silos as the resulting birth to failures as is the case in the article. On that note, government ministries and agencies should start to plan and work together on projects of national interests to avoid such predicaments.