Wealth and Poverty in Namibia


WINDHOEK — Namibia is nestled into the tip of southern Africa between Botswana, Angola and the Atlantic Ocean. Although considered a middle-income country, Namibia has one of the most unequal distributions of wealth and income in the world.

Many attribute poverty in Namibia to German colonization and years of apartheid rule imposed by the South African government. Before Namibia gained its independence in 1990 through a U.N.-brokered peace initiative, very little was known about the country’s economic status.

The Namibian government has participated in programs to stimulate the economy through data training and deficit reduction. However, with budget tightening and an apprehensive private sector, growing the economy is proving difficult.

Namibia’s economy currently is dependent on the extraction of minerals for export. Mining diamonds, zinc, copper and gold leaves the economy susceptible to fluctuations in world commodity prices. Quarrying employs only 2 percent of the population, and competition from Russian and Chinese diamond production drives down profit margins.

Less than 1 percent of the land in the country is arable. However, it is estimated that two-thirds of the land is suitable for pastoral use. These statistics are fairly recent and highlight a lack of data, most of which is only accessible by a small number of international agencies and academics. Generally, the following are necessary to gain information on poverty in Namibia:

  1. Data collection tools
  2. Analysis of data
  3. Data-driven solutions in policy

Data collection tools such as Commcare and Distributive Analysis/Analyze Distributive (DAD) enable more Namibians to gather information regarding poverty, industry profits and the effect of policy reforms on reducing the gap between the wealthy and the poor.

Commcare is a customizable open-source data collection app designed by Dimagi that has the ability to help small business owners in rural areas conduct business. UNDP and the Central Bureau of Statistics of Namibia worked with Laval University in Canada to implement an intensive training program on poverty analysis using DAD.

These new technologies provide policymakers with a foundation for decisions to improve the economy. Access to this data analysis enables the government and private sector to attack the source and move toward closing the wealth gap.

In addition to new technologies, a number of programs have been developed to aid Namibia’s wounded economy. The Sustainable Project for Rural Communities in Namibia works to improve standard of living among rural households in the Omusati, Oshana, Okavango and Omaheke regions. Their methods providing training for specific skills and providing locally produced technologies.

The Ministry of Poverty Eradication and Social Welfare organized a National Conference on Wealth Distribution and Poverty Eradication to promote a number of ideas in the hopes of reducing the gap in wealth distribution in Namibia. Its overarching goal is to eliminate poverty in Namibia by 2025.

Namibia has relied on its natural resources that are slowly depleting. More sustainable and fiscally stable options to boost the economy include investing in agriculture and transportation. These sectors are not only more sustainable options for employment, but they also promote local businesses and give communities autonomy to travel for resources and improve their standard of living.

The country of Namibia has grown since gaining independence and will continue to grow as more programs are implemented to promote economic diversity and better wealth distribution.

Rebekah Korn

Photo: Flickr


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