Unleash the private sector for job creation

A representative of one of Namibia’s long term development partners made a great comment. She said, “We are convinced it’s not governments that will create long-term employment opportunities that are needed; it’s the private sector.”

Many have been screaming this point for decades. In the new normal, this reality will be shoved down Namibia’s throat forcibly.

Government is basically broke as it struggles to find money to fund its deficits. It must spend the pennies it has left, not on direct employment projects, dropping bureaucratic barriers on the private sector. Allow service and product providers to get on with it.

In post-pandemic Namibia, the salvation of the economy will not come from government. It is drowning under a bloated civil service payroll, high income tax rate, high debt and low cash flow. Economic salvation will come from a reviving private sector.

As soon as the IMF arrives in Namibia bearing bags of budget deficit bail out money, they will come with a machete. Their cold-hearted rules will mandate cuts everywhere (including political sacred cows). This must be a game changer in Namibia.

The resurrection of the Namibian economy will be driven by the informal economy as well as formally registered cottage industries. A revived economy will not come from the handful of ‘corporates’ existing in Namibia. Nor will the big South African based banks save Namibia. Mass job creation will never come from phantom large international businesses. They were expected to float down from heaven and start employing thousands.

The job creation solution will come from the empowerment of tens of thousands of small enterprises. They need to be assisted to hire 2-5 people each.

The clothing service providers doing tailoring may need two extra workers. They can save this country if they are allowed to respond to the market in which they operate. Government needs to set the climate to help them expand.

The mechanics who know how to fix cars and do miracles in off-the-books repair shops, may need five workers. They work in a specific low income market sector. They can revive the Namibian economy if government gets out of the way.

There are thousands of women who are the best braiders in the township. These women know how to do weaves, stitch on hair, and are expert at working with natural hair. They can be the source of new jobs created.

The list of small business employment possibilities can go on.

SMEs lucky enough to have the funds and capacity to join the formal economy, present another growth area.

And yet, government is more concerned about finding one N$300 million project. It neglects the reality that mass employment will come from N$30,000 investments done 10,000 times in different sectors, across the country.

Our national investment strategy is pretentious. We punch above our weight and we are getting hammered. We are not the ‘Switzerland of Africa.’ We are little Namibia with one of the most sparsely populated countries in the world. Most of our workers have a poor work ethic. We have one of the highest GINI co-efficient ratings in the world. We are not an ICT powerhouse; we are not a highly educated society; STEM subjects are our lowest performance areas. We are not prepared for the 21st century competitive commercial demands globally. So, let us find solutions that work with what we have.

This is not to say we should abandon our efforts to develop a medical school, law school, higher math programs and computer science degrees. But, these rare areas of achievement in Namibia and should not define the economic growth areas for mass employment.

Focus on upskilling and recognition of prior learning for small business expansion jobs. Invest in employment creation where the market has identified the demand for goods and services. It is the private sector who will fish the economy out of the cesspool in which it is sinking.

Drop the petty and bureaucratic barriers that stop people from having home businesses. They will hire workers to help them expand and earn more money. Stop pushing the over-the-top unenforceable labour rules that encourage people to ignore them. Make a hassle-free path for the informal businesses to join the formal sector.

Stop the demand for the Annual Financial Reports that cost an SME N$3,500 per year just to report a profit of N$10,000. Revise the Certificate of Fitness criteria – drop the barriers to a lower level.

Stop the N$1,500 BIPA registrations for a company that only profits N$2,000 per year. Free the private sector!

The revival of the Namibian economy in 2021 and beyond will be done by the private sector, formal and informal. Support the private sector in these tough days. Allow them to respond to their specific market demand and hire people.

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