What kind of Namibia do we want?

Progress Namibia - What kind of Namibia do we want?
03 June 2019

The High Level Panel on the Economy (HLPE) was commissioned in March of 2019 by the Office of the President with the main aim to advise on bold, practical solutions to arrest the triple challenge of unemployment, income inequalities and poverty. I was commissioned to this panel, and drafted a vision to enable us to have a point of departure. No visioning was done so instead some pieces of the below have made an appearance in some of the concept papers instead. I thought it would be worthwhile sharing this piece here. Perhaps it inspires someone.

In order to effectively identify the key leverage points in the system to put us on a path that holistically addresses this triple challenge, we need to first agree on what exactly the end result looks like. What should the future of our Namibian human society look like? Only when we have this end result in mind, do we have direction. This section discusses this end result, with the view that it allows us to focus and find the right direction. This section draws from the Global Agenda 2030, the Africa Agenda 2063, our Vision 2030, its National Development Plans and the Harambee Prosperity Plan. Most notably, it also draws from action-research oriented surveys, focus group discussions and depth dialogue processes conducted over the span of 7 years (2012-2019) to effectively find out what constitutes a “good life” and what progress means to Namibian citizens.

It is no secret that humanity, at a global scale, is currently faced with confluences of economic, social, environmental and political challenges which require transformational changes across the regions. The global agenda for transformation (the Sustainable Development Goals), to which Namibia has signed up to, lays out a blueprint for this transformation. It is also no secret that Africa has not only been marginalized from the global economic growth that was registered at the expense of the destruction of the natural environment, but it is also the region that will be significantly affected by the resultant global environmental challenges, such as climate change.

However, despite the enormous socio-economic and socio-ecological challenges Africa is currently facing, it also has unique opportunities to transition to inclusive, low carbon and resource efficient economies. We in Africa are highly socially and technologically innovative, this innovation will stem from values, and not produce technology for technology's sake, but produce technology that improves society. The central objective of these economies and the development process in general has to be the continuous fulfilment and improvement of the wellbeing of its people in an inclusive and equitable manner. In this regard, the maintaining of the health of the natural ecosystem, as the foundation for any economic development, is a fundamental prerequisite for continuously improving the wellbeing of our people on a sustainable basis.

The Agenda 2063 states that the Africa We Want is an Africa that is self-confident in its identity, heritage, culture and shared values and an influential partner on the global stage making its contribution to peace, human progress and welfare. The ultimate aim is to establish peaceful, flourishing, inclusive and prosperous societies. An Africa that is people-driven. As concrete examples, it speaks about transformation and innovative leapfrogging in sectors such as agriculture, transport and energy.

In Namibia, our Vision 2030 states that our future is about the people. Our people. As a result, at the centre of the visioning is the concern for the population in relation to their social (particularly health), economic and overall wellbeing. Our vision is to transform Namibia into a healthy and food-secure nation, people enjoy high standards of living, a good quality of life and have access to quality education, health and other vital services. The concept of sustainable development is the cornerstone upon which the Vision 2030 was based.

The future statements in Vision 2030 was as follows:
People are the nation’s wealth: a population of healthy, well-educated, skilled and financially stable people with a broad range of talents and positive attitudes towards themselves, their fellow citizens, their country and global humanity…The nation’s ecological wealth: healthy, productive land with effective water and mineral cycling leading to infrequent, low level drought and flooding. Perennial rivers running and permanently clear, underground water levels stable and no silting of dams. No atmospheric pollution from croplands and rangelands and minimal pollution from urban and industrial areas will be permitted. Farms and natural ecosystems shall be productive, diverse, stable and sustainable – socially, economically, and ecologically.

Our national development planning process has been attempting to fulfill these above objectives, with Harambee Prosperity Plan aiming to catalyse some of the key areas that have been lagging. The aspirations of Harambee include a nation in which nobody feels left out, and a growth model that is inclusive, transformational and labour-intensive. The growth must promote value addition, diversification and result in the creation of quality jobs.

Recent participatory indicator work on defining what a good quality of life means to the citizens of Namibia, has shown interesting results.The key principles that were found to be of utmost importance to the life of our citizens included the following:
Basic needs (home, food, water, sanitation, electricity): Basic needs were key, and these needed to be met first. After basic needs though, immense wealth creation was not the key aspiration; instead it was the following below priorities.
Health: Not only access to health services, but a holistic approach to health and wellness, including the system of health – mental, diet, sense of belonging (as per below point), purpose, healthy environment – all were attributed to health.
Education (not only formal): Education that puts critical thinking at the forefront, and that prepares the Namibian citizen with the skills and abilities to reach their potential with the overall aim of contributing to societal and human development. Transdisciplinarity was also a key part of the future education system.
Relationships and sense of belonging to a community and trust: There is mounting evidence that social disconnection has as much influence on human health as food and nutrition. Social support and relationships were a key element to human happiness and fulfilment. Trust, in itself, came up as the most important factor to continue building and forming, and protecting.
Culture and identity: Culture is fluid and changes, but there are key principles that form cultural identity that are critical to Namibians and their quality of life.
Buying power: Being able to have the ability to buy what they need, and in many instances key aspirational wants, was an important contributor to life quality.
Quality work: Not just jobs, but work that people feel fulfils them, challenges them, and provides an enabling environment for them to reach their potential. Quality work also meant contributing to social progress, i.e. does good, was also found to be of importance.

It has been published that equitable societies live longer, have better mental health, and have better chances for a good education regardless of background. Community life is stronger where the income gap is narrower. When inequality is reduced people trust each other more, there is less violence, and rates of imprisonment are lower. We, as humans, are more fulfilled when we know and value our local worlds (people, community and environment), in addition to our financial and business worlds. Meaning is found through a combination of real purpose, community, and relationship to land, environments, and natural cycles that support us. Attending to regional and local needs of people and place, not business untethered except to stock markets, fuels individual empowerment and community responsibility necessary to nurture regenerative societies. In this vein, and with our own recent economic slowdowns (both the past years, and that of a decade ago) suggests that resilience is better obtained when we shift to an agenda that focuses on domestic demand-led growth, with local businesses that are embedded in society (vis. tax and accountabilities and employment).The next generation, in terms of the future of work, seeks purpose, authenticity, opportunity, transparency and creativity that can only be found with local engagement in the community.

The kind of economy to drive us to the thriving, sustainable and resilient Namibian society we want, should be an economy that strives for continuous fulfilment of basic human needs and aspirations within its people and within the limits and possibilities of its resource and available external opportunities. This would require deploying a national development strategy that is home-grown and organic but also adaptive to global dynamics. It will require governance mechanisms that are equipped for transformational leadership and fine-tuned with adaptive learning. An economy that we should want should address both distributive and participatory justice for its people through their active involvement in planning and management of the development process. This would require the development of distributed local economy networks in combination with national backbone industries that are low carbon and resource efficient. Its primary operational objectives would be job creation and value addition at the local level which are extremely crucial for our country.

“A thriving Namibia is one in which there is abundance of togetherness and support…as a small-scale farmer, I should be able to meet all my daily needs; there is access to water, electricity and sanitation. Local markets should be close to our villages and they should sell local products.”
Paulus Nakamwandi, 73 (cattle farmer)