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Namibia and the knowledge economy

By Ben Uugwanga
1. Introduction

The Mission Statement of the Office of the Prime Minister states that the Office is tasked to lead and support government institutions and to coordinate the work of Cabinet towards effective execution of government functions.

Furthermore, among some of the programmes the Office of the Prime Minister implemented during the period 2010 are: Policy Development. Cabinet Affairs.

Coordination and supervision of Offices/Ministries and Agencies.

Diplomatic liaison and international conferences.

Community interaction.

Special assignments.

Human resources development.

Human resources management.

Human capital management system development.

Reforms to advance efficiency and effectiveness.

E-governance and information communication technology.

Disaster and emergency management and General Administration.

The National Planning Commission is tasked to identify and plan priorities of national development as per Article 129, 98 and 95 of the Namibian Constitution and the National Planning Commission Act, 1994 (Act 15 of 1994). This mandate is accompanied by the task to design, implement and monitor development plans, projects and programmes in conformity with national development goals and objectives with a view to ensure the sustainable economic growth, equity, social harmony and balanced development.

This paper strives to highlight the importance in policy and strategy design, coordination and implementation with the purpose to suggest how Namibia can become a Knowledge Based Economy by the year 2030.

The paper takes special interest in recommending and ascertaining whether strategy design and implementation to achieve the knowledge economy targets have included inter-sectoral collaboration in order to capitalize on the strength of shared resource utilisation to achieve set out targets by all stakeholders contributing to Namibia's Knowledge Economy Objectives. The paper also take interest on the special role that non-state actors in particular should play in contributing to Vision 2030.

Additionally, the research will provide recommendations on how some of the objectives for a knowledge driven economy can be achieved by emphasizing importance to instill a learning society culture which by definition is the socialization of individuals to life long learning aided by technologies and the focus on social networking by using shared experiences of individuals based for a larger network of education that exists formally and informally through schools, universities, [media, civil society sensitisation], job-training, support, collaboration, feed back etc. Mclellan J. Sept. 2010 cited in Wikipedia.org).

Modern economies can be characterized as learning economies in which knowledge is the crucial resource and learning is the most important process. Different kinds of learning and economically relevant types of knowledge can likewise be identified. It is argued that pure market economies, if such existed would have severe problems in terms of learning and innovation. The learning economy is a mixed economy in a fundamental sense (Learning Economy - Wikipedia.org).

In the public debate knowledge is increasingly presented as the crucial factor in the development of both society and the economy. In a growing number of publications from the European Commission and Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development it is emphasized that we are currently operating in a Knowledge- Based Economy. For many prefer the term the learning economy in characterising the current socio-economic development (Learning Economy - Wikipedia.org).

Various observers describe today's global economy as one in transition to a "Knowledge Economy," as an extension of an Information Society. The transition requires that the rules and practices that determine success in the industrial economy need rewriting in an interconnected globalised economy where knowledge resources such as know-how and expertise are as critical as other economic resources. According to analysts of the "Knowledge Economy," these rules need to be rewritten at the levels of firms and industries in terms of Knowledge Management and at the level of public policy and as knowledge policy or knowledge-related policy (Learning Economy - Wikipedia.org).

Vision 2030

Namibia formally launched Vision 2030 in the year 2000.

The Aims of Vision 2030 are for Namibia to become industrialized by 2030 as well as become a high performing competitive economy offering high living standards to all its citizens.

In response to the goals and objectives of Vision 2030 commentators have proposed standards and reforms to be set in the following areas in order to achieve the objectives and goals for a knowledge based economy and they are:

Building strong institutions as well as promoting transparency, accountability, the rule of law and strengthening democracy in general.

Maintain and building world class infrastructure in order to promote trade and commerce. Promote Macro-economic stability.

Promote investments in health and primary education. Promote investment in higher education and research and development.

Promote Goods Market Efficiency and Efficient Government Participation in the economy by satisfying the provision of a bankruptcy system which by definition is the resolve not to promote loss-making state owned enterprise ventures but to close shop and reorganise where necessary those which hold potential in basic needs provision in areas such as information, education, health, water and electricity service provision.

Promote labour market efficiency by ensuring that the economy is diversified and that the labour market is aligned to the needs of industry.

Promote Technology Readiness and ensure that Namibians are computer literate and that technology plays an important role in the primary and secondary sector. Promote Business sophistication by developing local concept designs through cultural appropriation and modernization in order to reflect the afrocentric creative element of African art.

Promote innovation this mean to collaborate with Research and Development product design centers. Promote access of Small Medium Enterprises to venture capital and entrepreneurship mentorship training. (Acknowledgement World Competitiveness Report).

Provide incentives to manufacturing companies in order to promote value addition and industrialization.

Vision 2030 place the underlying as strategies to enable Namibia become a Knowledge Based Economy by 2030 which are:

Transform and make the financial sector especially the banking sector accessible to the majority of the population. Provide appropriate education and transform most institutions of learning to ensure that these are responsive to the labour needs of Namibia. Provide affordable and excellent health care and strengthen the fight against HIV/AIDS.

Ensure an atmosphere of peace, security and hope for a better life for all, and operate a democratic government. Process all natural resources and build industries in all sectors of the Namibian economy. Create access to abundant hygienic and healthy food based on food security. Maintain stable productive and diverse ecosystems managed for long-term sustainability.

Provide excellent affordable health care for all.

The Milestone and measurable indicators for Vision 2030 is for Namibia to industrialise, enjoying a high capita income, with a highly educated people, enjoying abundant prosperity, interpersonal harmony, peace and political stability.

Successfully, achieving the objectives of Vision 2030 shall require stakeholders to collaborate with the state in implementing and driving the realization of Namibia's strategy aimed at making the country a Knowledge Based Economy by 2030.

At the same time an a diagnosis and prognosis needs to be made to look at the strength, weaknesses, opportunities and threats experienced in the coordination and implementation of the strategies for a Knowledge Based Economy in terms of promoting citizen participation by various stakeholders that blend in with the requirements to enable Namibia become a Learning Society that strive to assertively and proactively use all opportunities available and presented by government through non-state actors empowerment efforts after personal responsibility are taken by individuals to capitalize on:

SME Development and Mentoring opportunities in order curb unemployment and to contribute to personal self-empowerment and improvement. Capitalise on educational and training opportunities to achieve personal development in order to participate fully in a Knowledge Based Economy. Take personal control and guard against HIV/AIDS infections and participate in raising awareness to combat the spread of the pandemic.

Contribute to a pluralistic, tolerant, harmonious and peaceful society. Participate in entrepreneurial ventures anchored on value addition through joint ventures and product development ventures supported by Product Development Programmes and which present opportunities to enter into Joint-Ventures with companies offering business opportunities.

Promote a green economy and clean technology. Take personal responsibility in avoiding unhealthy lifestyles such as drug and alcohol abuse and promiscuity in order to be guaranteed of a healthy and assiduous life.

Take personal responsibility and capitalize on opportunities presented to become computer literate.

Take personal responsibility in being whistle blowers against power abuse, corruption, mismanagement, racism, tribalism and male chauvinism.

An Objective Analysis of Vision 2030

Vision 2030 opines that Namibia should have healthy, well educated, skilled, pro-active and financially stable people with a broad range of talents and display a positive attitude towards themselves, their fellow citizens, their country and broader humanity by the year 2030. Additionally, the document envisions businesses in the world to view Namibia as a good choice for investment given the atmosphere of peace, security, political stability which guarantees wealth and employment creation initiatives.

According to experts, Namibia needs to record a sustained economic growth rate of 7% till the year 2030 and beyond in order to achieve the goals and objectives of Vision 2030 which are to become a prosperous and industrialized country, developed by her human resources, enjoying peace, harmony and political stability (Vision 2030). In this regard the importance of knowledge for long term economic growth becomes important.

In an economy knowledge is the main engine of economic growth in that sustained investments in education, innovation and communication technology and a conducive economic and institutional environment will lead to increases in the uses and creation of knowledge in economic production leading to sustained economic growth (Derek Chen and Carl Dahman, 2005). Skeptics put it that the overall objectives of Vision 2030 are ambitious and unrealistic to achieve given the low economic growth rate recorded for the past 12 years which is between 2% and 4% annually (Statistics Source: CIA World Fact book). While this is true strategy implementation efforts to transform Namibia into a knowledge based economy needs to be anchored on milestone plans that highlight current achievements, set backs, lessons learned and measureable indicators in view of external and internal factors militating progress.

The Targeted Intervention Program for Employment and Economic Growth (TIPEEG)

Given the 51% unemployment figures released by the Ministry of Labour of the Republic of Namibia in 2010, among other things government designed the Targeted Intervention Program for Employment and Economic Growth (TIPEEG) to create short to medium term jobs in the Namibian economy over the short to medium term. In view of the structure of Namibia's economy much effort needs to be done in ensuring that the labour pool is not only limited to unskilled and semi-skilled but that a transition is made into producing highly skilled workers that can fasttrack the knowledge based economy process for Namibia forward.

Some sources have put it that proper labour and human capital development planning and economic specialization has to be synchronized and coordinated as a strategy to chart a road map towards achieving and implementing a viable knowledge based economy strategy for Namibia. Achieving the above objective requires high level political commitment, administrative and technical expertise and support and a very well design system of monitoring and coordination in addition to attracting mentorship of highly skilled technical staff to assist in training locals to manage local problems according to the peculiar needs and dynamics faced.

In terms of labour planning, labour planning experts should inform overall government strategy planning about the needs of labour expertise needed in the strategic sector in order for training institutions to design courses that address the needs of industry. Equally, implementation, coordination, monitoring and adopting corrective measures should be instituted promptly in order to remedy or discard policy failures and to draw lessons from the experiences of other countries and adopt best practices in line with Namibia's unique needs.

Future Challenges

For Namibia to achieve the goals and objectives of Vision 2030 it is suggested for the economic growth rate to be a sustained at 7% or more. At the same time, Namibia being a developing country faces challenges such as skills shortages, diversification of economy, marketing of Namibia's resources in line with her comparative advantages and based on the economies of scale of key industries.

At the same time government is expected to prioritise on resource spending, promote an entrepreneurial culture, mentor and empower Small and Medium Enterprises and promote inter-sectoral collaboration among all stakeholders involved in spearheading the knowledge based economy agenda. Issues of life long learning are also critical including investing heavily in health and in education.

As Namibia attained 21 years of independence while left with only few years to reach the year 2030, all role players need to assess and take stock of where we are now, where we want to be, how to get there and how we know we can get there in terms of realizing sectoral and programmatic objectives set out for Vision 2030. Special attention should be made to monitor and evaluate the process of policy coordination, stake holder participation and intersectoral collaboration in strategy implementation to measure policy success. At the same time attention will needs to be paid in proposing solution and evaluate the strategy output of different projects under different stakeholders involved in implementing Namibia's strategy for a Knowledge Based Economy.

Non-state actors should complement government on how to address key sociopolitical and economic problems impeding the implementation of the knowledge based economy strategy such as:

Leadership and Strategic Management Challenges. Addressing the digital information communication divide. Promoting a Learning Society Culture based on the premises of learning, unlearning and re-learning and using the right tools to address different problems.

Socialise society alongside pluralistic values.

Promote pro-action and assiduousness among Namibians.

Promote an Entrepreneurship culture among Namibians.

Promote integrity systems and checks and balances for democracy.

Advance accountability, transparency, tolerance and human rights.

Promote spiritual intelligence values.

Promote hard work and an interdependence culture. Promote personal, corporate and organizational leadership effectiveness.

Promote career planning and labour planning advisory services.

Conclusion

Namibia is a developing country. As a developing country it is important for Namibia to analyse and measure the output of the Knowledge Based Economy Strategy Implementation Efforts in order to benchmark gains against international Best Practice Experiences. This is necessary because only smart states will survive and sustain themselves for generations amid international economic competition.

In this respect it is imperative for policy makers and government strategists to find ways on how Namibia during this difficult time of the global economic financial recession envisages to achieve greater policy success. Leaders need to translate vision into strategy and tactics in terms of identifying the strength and weaknesses in institutional, technical, financial and leadership bottlenecks and opportunities existent to effect the successful fast-tracking of the goals and objectives for a Knowledge Based Economy for Namibia.

Research and Development will also be important to allow government integrate and complement non-state actors to address the country's socioeconomic and technical challenges that will ensure that we succeed in achieving the objectives for achieving greater performance in:

Developing an innovative and highly skilled technical pool.

Increase Namibia's competitiveness rating.

Increase Namibia's transparency rating.

Increase Namibia's good governance rating.

Increase Namibia's economic growth rate.

Increase Namibia's Human Development Index. Decrease Namibia's unemployment rate.

Decrease the HIV/AIDS statistics. Since, Vision 2030 is expressed under the countries development plans, which are the National Development Plans 1- 4, it is important that the next step forward is to assess the design, coordination, implementation, monitoring and evaluation applied during the past 12 years in order to ascertain whether the Knowledge Base Economy strategy for Namibia are bearing fruit. At the same time it is important that in view of limited resources at hand individuals should not ask what government can do for them, but ask what they can do for Namibia.

Resource prioritization and doing first things first, modesty, doing more with little, right placement of practitioners, milestone planning, promoting a savings culture, hard work, focus and realism will be key aspects which will ensure that Namibia achieve the miracles achieved by Germany, Singapore, China, India and the United States to mention but a few. Namibia needs not to reinvent the wheel but needs innovation, adaptation, replication of policies; strategies and tactics and tailor them to her peculiar situation and where necessary draw lessons based on best practice.

In the same light Namibia ought to make use of wisdom, knowledge, expertise and the education process as tools to contribute to her economic development and socio-political progress and act pro-actively and not reactionary in order to secure bright prospects ahead.





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