In the coming months, thousands of mostly young adults will graduate from Namibia’s three biggest universities, with various qualifications. They are not alone; they will also be joined by another wave of graduates coming out of the many colleges and vocational training centres that have sprung up over the years across the higher education fraternity.
These thousands of young people are coming out of the higher education system with very high expectations. They want to land a job with a reasonable salary – one that matches the years and money they have invested in their qualifications. For those coming from poor and previously disadvantaged backgrounds, they are hoping to end the cycle of generational poverty that defines many families across Namibia – and in particular, black families.
However, a bleak reality awaits these graduates. There are simply no jobs. Not only is there an oversupply of graduates from institutions of higher learning, but the Namibian economy has also seemingly stopped producing jobs at a rate fast enough to accommodate the thousands of graduates that are exiting the higher education system every year.
Hence, this years’ graduates will join the already 67 000 unemployed graduates reported by the Ministry of Higher Education, Training and Innovation in 2018. Without a doubt, that number has exponentially increased since 2018 and must be hovering above more than 70 000 unemployed graduates at the present moment.
Sadly, there is currently no guarantee that a university degree will secure young graduates’ employment and subsequently a chance at uplifting not only their lives but the lives of their families and communities as well.
Youth unemployment in Namibia, in general, is skyrocketing out of control. The latest figures released by the Namibian Statistics Agency in 2018 shows that youth unemployment in Namibia is now at an alarming 43.40% - and that number has, without a doubt, increased considerably since then. The thousands of university graduates exiting the system this year will add to the growing number of frustrated, unemployed people on the streets of Namibia.
We are, therefore, faced with an existential crisis in the form of the graduate unemployment crisis – and it has far-reaching consequences for the social fabric and order of our society than we might think. This status quo is largely problematic because it threatens the general ‘peace and stability’ that we have come to enjoy in Namibia for the past 30 years. Of course, the founder of peace studies, John Galtung, warns that ‘peace and stability’ must not always be defined in terms of physical conflict. However, for the purpose of this article, I shall be referring to peace and stability in its most simplistic and literal definition – that being physical confrontation.
It is important to note that frustrated, unemployed and oppressed young people have been the orchestrators of revolutions and regime-changes across Africa and the world in contemporary times – the recent Arab Spring in Libya and Pro-Democracy uprisings in Hong Kong being classic examples. It is even more dangerous when it is the young educated masses who are the subject of such frustration, which is currently the case in terms of the current graduate unemployment crisis in Namibia. Historically, the young educated elite have been the pacemakers and paradigm shifters in terms of removing governments across the world.
Hence, the graduate unemployment crisis in Namibia is the fuel on the fire needed to ignite a revolt of the young people against the political, economic and social establishments within Namibia, which in turn can spiral into a broader conflict that threatens the long-term stability of the Namibian state.
An unemployed, frustrated and hungry youth is an angry youth – and youth unemployment, in general, as well as graduate unemployment, in particular, are ticking time bombs, aiding an inevitable revolt of young people in Namibia.
It is, therefore, fundamental that government and the private sector come together to find a long-lasting solution to this problem. The future of Namibia is rested upon its sprawling young people. In fact, young people constituted more than 60% of registered voters in the 2019 Presidential and National Assembly elections, and that number is expected to be above 70% in the 2024 Presidential and National Assembly elections. The masses of unemployed youth will for sure not be voting for a government that is anti-youth. We remain grounded.
*Tjekupe Maximalliant Katjimune is the national spokesperson of the PDM Youth League, and a prospective graduate of political science and sociology at the University of Namibia.