WINDHOEK, Namibia — Namibia has enjoyed a stable political atmosphere since 1990 with effective leadership, legitimate elections and infrastructure development. The southwest African nation of 2.3 million people is relatively prosperous, but about 40 percent of Namibians remain in poverty. President Hage Geingob hopes to uplift the poor by encouraging foreign investment in Namibia’s untapped industries.
The poorest half of Namibians own just three percent of the wealth, while the wealthiest five percent own 70 percent. Unemployment is estimated to be between 28 and 38 percent, but is difficult to measure. This inequality of wealth muddies the waters of poverty in Namibia because overall it is classed as an upper middle income country.
Building a stronger job market with international support is Geingob’s mission, and he aims to promote private investment in Namibia’s lucrative markets of housing, agriculture, energy and manufacturing. Namibia has a relatively free press, a strong banking sector, an independent judicial system, and a climate that can support many industries. It also has strong women’s representation, with a parliament that is 42 percent female.
A largely untapped resource is tourism in Namibia, offering great diversity in topography, wildlife and cityscapes. Some highlights include the big-game sanctuary of Etosha National Park, the hiking paradise of Fish River Canyon, or the German colonial town of Luderitz, perfectly placed between the Namib desert and the southwest coast.
Investment in Namibia would have access to the South African Development Community which is a 15 member-state partnership with a total population of 277 million. Additionally, an $86 million port expansion of Walvis Bay will also ensure more fluid shipping and bolster the capability to invest in Namibia. Namibia has vast amounts of raw materials such as diamonds, uranium, copper and lead, and the president wants to develop Namibia’s capacity to manufacture its own goods and have these resources benefit the people.
Although Geingob remains hopeful that foreign companies will invest in Namibia, simultaneously pursuing growth and poverty alleviation may be a difficult path to follow. His ten-year plan for poverty eradication includes a wealth tax through the New Equitable Economic Empowerment Framework (NEEEF), which has already caused a credit rating reduction by the Fitch Agency.
Geingob’s vision is far-reaching. However, the president believes pursuing equality is not a luxury, but a necessity. “It is neither morally acceptable nor politically sustainable to ignore inequality,” he said. “It is not tenable to live in the same house where someone is starving and you are doing okay but doing nothing about it.”
– Patrick Tolosky