Namibia, with one of the youngest populations in Africa, could reach a staggering 50.30% youth unemployment rate by the end of 2021.
United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) country representative Sheila Roseau revealed this figure last week during the launch of the third National Youth Policy.
The 2018 National Labour Force Survey results point to an increased need to address youth unemployment, which is estimated to have increased from 43% in 2016 to 46% by 2018. The most recent figures from the Namibia Statistics Agency (NSA) indicate that the country’s overall unemployment rate dropped slightly from 34% in 2016 to 33.4% in 2018.
Roseau noted that Namibia has one of the youngest populations on the African continent.
“More than one-third of the population is between 10 to 24 years of age. Healthy and empowered youth are key to a better prosperous future for each young person, community and the continent at large,” she said.
Roseau added that government has achieved some milestones since 1993 when the first National Youth Policy was adopted as a guide for youth development programmes in the country. However, government still has to overcome challenges as outlined in the second Harambee Prosperity Plan, although there are various reasons for youth unemployment such as the lack of experience, ineffective job searching techniques and a lack of career guidance in schools.
Furthermore, insufficient information and communication technology (ICT) network infrastructure nationwide poses a big challenge to youth development.
“Namibia has a unique opportunity to invest in young human capital with the potential of socio-economic benefits. Failure to provide education, create decent opportunities and access to health services for a youth-dominated population poses a potential threat to the economic and social stability of the country,” she said.
The UNFPA thus reaffirms its commitment to intensify evidence-based advocacy policy engagement, partnership and programme efforts to strengthen international, regional and national commitments to prioritise, invest, educate, engage in and empower young people in Namibia, Roseau stated, adding that they remain committed to working with the youth ministry and its partners.
At the same occasion, youth minister Agnes Tjongarero said the country’s youth cannot continue to be only job seekers, but must also become employment creators.
Popular Democratic Movement (PDM) parliamentarian Nico Smit said Namibian political stability is in big trouble due to the high youth unemployment rate.
“Youth unemployment, inequality and poverty in Namibia are very common. If Namibia does not see this as a big challenge, we are most likely to experience what happened in South Africa a few weeks ago. Government should have different policies and strategies to create more jobs in the domestic economy,” he continued.
According to Smit, the 50.30% figure is cooked, saying in reality youth unemployment is close to 60% in Namibia.
Presidential advisor on youth matters Daisry Mathias said the third National Youth Policy is an umbrella framework to guide government in its employment efforts for the youth.
“The policy will also seek to significantly strengthen government capacity to engage and work with young people to benefit from the views, insights and ideas of young people. The government works on youth matters to be pursued in a more coordinated, coherent and holistic manner,” she noted.
Mathias added that the youth development sector is cross-cutting with multiple stakeholders within government and civil society. The policy is therefore to set the tone for youth development in the country as it also introduces an innovation aspect.
Deputy minister of youth Emma Kantema-Gaomas observed that the third edition of the National Youth Policy was developed to respond to the contemporary challenges and opportunities the youth are faced with.
“We envisioned that by 2030, young Namibians should be empowered, self-reliant and be productive citizens through improved services in education, health, economic empowerment as well as civil and political participation,” enthused Kantema-Gaomas. The deputy minister explained that the policy objectives aim to advocate for young people to have access to quality formal and informal education as well as skills development to improve overall educational outcomes.
Secondly, it aims to promote access to youth-friendly health information and wellbeing, to facilitate access to economic empowerment opportunities, promote youth participation and representation in democratic and civic engagement, and address contemporary challenges the youth face in personal and national development spheres.