Can Namibians do the job?

The Ministry of Home Affairs and Immigration, unions and the public often decry the local hiring of a foreign national. They believe that person is taking a job away from a Namibian. At the same time, there are employers that are hell-bent on hiring foreigners rather than a Namibian (regardless of qualifications).

In the first case, it is untrue that qualified, experienced Namibians are left sitting at home while foreigners get those jobs. Skilled Namibians with experience are being employed. The issue is the army of recent graduates with no experience who are challenged.

At the same time, North Koreans or Chinese are imported into Namibia as manual labourers on construction sites or as shop keepers. This is must stop. Namibia is overflowing with unskilled and semi-skilled unemployed labourers who must take-up that level of employment.

In many cases, the government is to blame when we see foreigners pushing wheel barrows or running shops. Almost inevitably, a ‘deal’ was cut when a foreign construction company is engaged or a foreign bank loan is given. These openings for certain foreigners are mandated as a part of the deal. This is not explained to the public. It causes misunderstandings.

We must wake up from the liberation movement era ethos about solidarity. Investors don’t take multi-million dollar bank loans because they love Namibia. It is about the bottom line – ROI – Return on Investment.

Certainly, targeted negotiations with potential investors are needed. But, Namibia, the weaker partner, cannot be too demanding lest we lose the investment completely.

Regardless of treaties or agreements, lower level jobs that can be filled locally, must be.

But the issue is not so clear cut.

There are local private sector employers that will not hire people outside their language group for substantive jobs. These employers claim they cannot find a Namibian to fill a job when that is not the case. Many times they never looked.

Some local employers will hire unqualified family members and children of friends before hiring a black new graduate. The new graduate might need a short training time and experience to master the job. There are employers who will not offer this.

Some companies purposefully set their bar so high that the number of local people of colour who could vie for the post is extremely limited. They will demand 10 or 15 years’ experience in order to block Namibians with newly minted degrees from applying. They will demand expertise in obscure software packages. They might demand that all their employees have a driver’s license or their ‘own transport’. These are exclusion barriers using euphemisms.

The Ministry of Home Affairs and Immigration has its challenges to be certain, but it must do battle in this arena. Some of their decisions smack of a malicious joy at saying ‘no’ to employers. But, most cases are difficult to gauge. A new graduate from a local university has a degree, but can they actually do the work?

It is also a fact that some new university graduates have delusions of grandeur. They are hired for a good job and leave after they are trained. They take up jobs with competitors or in completely different fields. The first employer has invested money in training them with no ROI. That employer is no longer as anxious to give another young person a chance.

It is true that there are employers in many sectors who will not willingly recruit Namibians. They ‘assume’ Namibians cannot do the work. Home Affairs is the only hammer to force them to try.

Hiring a talented Namibian may mean a that person will not share a culture, religion or background with the ‘bosses’. But, the new employee may be able to do the job excellently.

When employers cannot easily hire foreign labour, they will have give a local employee a chance and work with them on performance.

Are there Namibians who can do the job? Not always. This is particularly the case in technical jobs where years of experience are necessary for performance. Only after seeking Namibians to fill these jobs (in good faith) and no one is available, companies must be allowed to import skills.

Can otherwise qualified Namibians do the job? Yes.

Short-term guidance might be required, but they can perform if given the chance.

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