A strategy for development

Hifikepunye Pohamba

In 2011, Namibia celebrated 21 years as an independent nation. As a relatively young country, it is appropriate that its national priorities are geared towards ensuring a better future for its young people, especially through education and the provision of new job opportunities. In this exclusive interview with Global, President Hifikepunye Pohamba outlines his government’s principal values and ambitions.

Global: Namibia has consistently scored highly in African indices of governance. Can you say how you define good governance and what are Namibia’s biggest successes in this regard?

President Pohamba: At independence, the Swapo [South West African People’s Organisation] government inherited a social service system that was ethnically and racially fragmented. We have made great efforts to entrench peace and stability, and worked hard to maintain political and economic stability as a prerequisite for socioeconomic development. We have established institutions of checks and balances, such as the Anti-Corruption Commission and the Ombudsman.

The government has succeeded in increasing access to social services such as health, education, electricity, water and sanitation. We have adopted primary health care as a guiding policy to ensure health care for all. Equally, education receives the highest percentage of our national budget allocation. We have made significant progress in making primary education for all a reality, with over 95 percent of our children attending school. We have also built development infrastructure in urban centres [and] industrial parks in rural areas to enhance commercialisation and industrialisation. Our civil society has grown both in visibility and influence. The printed media in Namibia are mostly privately owned, operating in a free and competitive environment.

Besides all these, the process of decisionmaking and implementation is transparent, and this is good governance.

How does your government view the current level of political participation by Namibian citizens? Do you think the system adequately protects the interests of both ethnic and political minorities?
The active participation of Namibia citizens is essential in safeguarding democracy and achieving sustainable socio-economic development. In Namibia, public participation is provided for by our constitution, and it entails not just rights to vote, but the formulation, adoption and implementation of public policy programmes and projects, free from discrimination based on race, ethnicity, tribe, religion and gender.

Do you expect to see a smooth and transparent transfer of power to your successor when you step down at the end of your presidential term in 2014/2015?
Swapo has a proud history of holding free and fair elections. Our electoral college is well established. We have a strong intra-party democracy which provides for the election of party leaders in a democratic way. This includes the choice of those who will be nominated as candidates for presidential elections. We will continue to build on the successes we have recorded since the party brought freedom and independence to our country.

Namibia has a large youth population, growing up in peace, despite the poverty that many people endure. What is your advice to Namibia’s young people?
Work and study hard and continue to engage in constructive activities, while staying away from the abuse of drugs and other anti-social behaviour. Education and training are cardinal to our youth, as the future leaders of our country. I therefore encourage them to study hard in science subjects – to become engineers, mathematicians, doctors, geologists, biologists and scientists who are capable of implementing our government programmes.

Thanks to its enormous subsoil wealth, Namibia is heavily dependent economically on the mining industry. Do you expect to see greater local processing of these minerals in future?
To counter dependency on our natural resources base, the government has increased its public expenditure. A large part of this goes to the development budget, targeting priority sectors to reduce unemployment and add value to our raw materials. We are cognisant of the fact that mining minerals and exporting them without local value-adding is a lopsided economic trend, and we are therefore exploring factors relating to the development of the primary industries, to act as catalysts for secondary and tertiary industry development. Local value-adding will not only add to industrialisation but also to employment creation and skills development.

In view of Namibia’s high levels of unemployment, does the government have plans for the creation of sustainable jobs? What skills are most relevant to the country’s future?
The application of technical knowledge is important for the socio-economic development of our country. This implies the establishment of institutions of higher learning as a source of scientific and technical skills to feed our primary, secondary and tertiary industries.

This financial year, we have introduced the Targeted Intervention Programme for Employment and Economic Growth, aiming at stimulating growth in a number of targeted sectors, which in turn will create a conducive environment for long-term investment.

Over the next three years, the government will spend NAD9 billion on the agriculture, tourism, transport and housing sectors, with the specific purpose of creating new employment opportunities. Our effort is therefore geared towards promoting economic growth and combating inequality and unemployment.

How do you see Namibia’s political and economic relationship with China evolving in coming years? Are you happy with the growing role of Chinese citizens in the economy and do you feel that the relationship is largely beneficial to Namibia over the longer term?
China is one of the countries that supported Namibia during the liberation struggle and after independence, as well as one of the first countries that established diplomatic relations with Namibia. Since then our two countries continue to enjoy excellent relations in many fields [and] our trade has increased two-fold. We will continue to work together under the framework of the Forum of China-Africa Cooperation. We will continue to enhance such cooperation, which is based on mutual benefit and respect.

Are you happy with the development of cooperation with Namibia’s key neighbours: South Africa, Botswana and Angola? Do you expect to see closer cooperation in future through the good offices of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and other organisations?
We have long-standing relations and continue to enjoy excellent cooperation culturally, politically and economically. As SADC member states, we are committed to harmonising key issues such as the provision of infrastructure, elimination of tariff and non-tariff barriers, competition policy, transport and trade, fighting corruption and access to finance. We will continue strengthening our mechanisms for monitoring and evaluating the direction and pace of implementing our developmental goals.

About the author:

Hifikepunye Pohamba is the President of Namibia


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