At 31 years of independence the average Namibian is black, young, unemployed, poor and landless. One would think that the end of apartheid and colonialism would have heralded a new Namibia for the generation born at its demise. The current socio-economic dynamics are unfavourable towards young people.
According to the African Development Bank report, by 2050 Africa will be home to 38 of the 40 youngest countries in the world, with the median populations under 25 years of age. This will result in an estimated 10-12 million new people joining the labour force each year, continentally. It is these statistics that keep young people awake.
There is a clarion call for a considerable amount of investment to go into human development to unlock a demographic dividend. The rate at which young educated Namibians are leaving to seek more opportunities abroad is worrying. It means that independent Namibia has not been able to create a conducive environment, where Namibians can participate freely and be afforded equal opportunities.
The lack of access to quality higher education is still persistent since 1990. Most young people who graduate from secondary school often do not proceed to tertiary learning because of their poor economic backgrounds. It is thus difficult to celebrate the anniversary of a country that is in the grip of a devastating poverty pandemic; in the midst of a sexual and gender-based violence pandemic; in the throes of a child-abuse and neglect pandemic, a country severely afflicted by a corruption and poor governance pandemic.
Accountable leadership has been one of the biggest challenges to development in Namibia. Leaders have not been able to effectively respond to the needs of the electorate, but there is hope in the up-and-coming generation of youth who play a critical role in the representation of the masses.
In addition to a failed leadership, Namibia suffers from a deeply-seated colonial inheritance of unequal distribution of resources. This is the most obvious and yet unacceptable reality after 31 years of independence.
On the other side of the coin, however, Namibia has seen a number of reforms introduced through policies to redress the inheritances of colonialism and apartheid. Policies that seek to address exclusion, discrimination and the protection of the rights of women and children. The most recent being the tabling of the Combating of Domestic Violence Act (Act 4 of 2003) and the Combating of Rape Act (Act 8 of 2000) in the National Assembly by the justice minister. The changes to these two laws could improve the response of government to cases of domestic and gender-based violence (GBV) and protect victims against intimidation.
Namibia has also done incredibly well in creating a conducive environment wherein individuals are able to express themselves freely without fear or favour, sometimes at the demise of those who advocated for these very freedoms. The Access to Information Bill is testimony to this enjoyed freedom. These are just a few.
At 31 years of independence, black and landless young people are empowered to serve in organs of the state. They find their guiding principle in Article 63(i) of the Namibian Constitution: “… to remain vigilant and vigorous for the purposes of ensuring that the scourges of apartheid, tribalism and colonialism do not again manifest themselves in any form in a free and independent Namibia…’. There is hope.