By: Staff Writer
While Namibian youth continue to swim in the morass of joblessness, with very little prospects for immediate intervention, neighbors Botswana recently held a conference on the same issue.
The 2-day second annual labour conference was organised by the Institute of Labour and Employment Studies (ILES), a college wholly owned by Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU), in Gaborone last week.
Botswana, which is SADC’s fourth largest economy, also retains that position in terms of the youth unemployment rate. According to available data, Botswana youth unemployment rate for 2022 was 37.85%, a 0.75% decline from 2021.
The youth unemployment rate in Botswana decreased by 0.8 percentage points (-2.07%) in 2022 in comparison to the previous year. Nevertheless, the last two years recorded a significant higher youth unemployment rate than the preceding years.
Locally, UN Resident Coordinator, HopolangPhororo, says Namibia’s unemployment rate stands at 34% and the youth unemployment rate at 48%. “What we are seeing from a lot of the surrounding countries is that if we don’t try to do something about it, it can become a real threat. And we don’t want it to become a threat,” she cautioned recently.
Phororo took a leaf out of President Hage Geingob’s warning in March this year when he said: “Youth, if they all [are] going to rise up, it will be a crisis, and they can get guns. Terrorism, that’s what I am talking about. They could be recruited and be misled by other forces. “… and since they are frustrated, they can join them. So, we can create jobs so that we diffuse the danger that is facing us.”
In the Southern African Development Community (SADC), nine out of the 16 countries experienced double-digit youth unemployment levels, with the worst-affected countries being South Africa (53.2%), Namibia (48%), eSwatini (47.4%), Botswana (37.85%), and Lesotho (33%).
In Botswana, as in five other SADC countries, employment is driven by the service sector, with the leading countries being South Africa (72%), Mauritius (66%), eSwatini (63%), Namibia (61%) and Botswana and São Tomé & Príncipe (59%).
Speaking at the said conference, Botswana’s Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Labour and Home Affairs, Jimmy Opelo, said job creation is not just an economic necessity but a moral imperative hence the need for stakeholders to work together to foster an environment that is conducive for sustainable employment.
Opelo said a commitment to mind-set change by governments in the region is an important ingredient needed to drive job creation. “This agenda, which emphasises the need for a shift in perspective and adaptability in the face of change, will be instrumental in facilitating job creation,” he said.
He added that embracing a growth mind set, fostering innovation, and encouraging lifelong learning were at the heart of the mind-set change agenda.
Opelo said to thrive in the new era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, there was a need to prioritise bridging the skills gap and place human potential at the forefront.
He said all stakeholders should ensure that the workforce is equipped with the necessary skills to navigate the challenges and opportunities presented by automation and digitalisation hence investing in education and upskilling programmes was paramount to achieving this.
With reference to the conference’s theme: ‘A just transition and decent work; inclusive job creation approaches and effective labour market protection systems’, he said the just transition setting was essential as it ensured that the economic shift towards sustainability did not come at the expense of workers and communities.
He however urged participants to take lessons learned and transform them into real-world solutions and advocate for just policies, support inclusive job creation as well as champion effective labour market protection systems while at the same time prioritising human potential in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
In Namibia, a high level of youth unemployment can be traced to policy implementation shortfalls. On paper, our papers look and sound great as they mention aspirations to address youth unemployment, from national development plans, Vision 2030, Harambee Prosperity Plan (HPP1+2), and now the recently reviewed National Youth Policy. However, the disconnect between theory and practice has been exposed by the pandemic as it is clear that nothing tangible has really changed for the plight of Namibian youth.
Furthermore, corruption and its systemic nature is a big contributingfactor as money that could have been put to good use in avenues such as employment creation is being pocketed by people illicitly.
The Namibian labour ministry is of the opinion that the quality of curriculums does not offer seamless integration between the knowledge and skills provided through the education system and the demands of the local labour market. As a consequence, it says, many young people who graduate from these training institutions are unable to secure employment, because their technical capacities do not meet the needs of employers.
The Ministry further opined there is a close connection between youth unemployment and the economic performance of the country, as youth employment depends on the availability of investments that are directed at boosting the economic performance of a country and the creation of employment.
A research paper, published by the National Planning Commission titled ‘Namibia’s Untapped Resource – Analysing Youth Unemployment’ suggests that the government should develop job creation programmes targeted at the most vulnerable groups.
“Though youth unemployment in Namibia is high overall, it is particularly high among younger individuals, women and those residing in rural areas. Job creation programmes thus need to be targeted at these and other vulnerable groups,” the report reads. It further states that the youth face many barriers when entering the labour market in Namibia.
“Lack of sufficient education, a weak entrepreneurship culture and poor financial literacy appear to be some barriers to entry,” it further reads.
At the same conference in Gaborone, the Manager for Employment Policy and Analysis Programme from the International Training Centre Manager of the Employment Policy and Analysis Programme (EPAP) of the ITC-ILO, Dr Bernd Mueller, said there was insufficient job growth to solve the region’s employment challenges.
He singled out youth unemployment and working poverty as two crucial challenges not only in the SADC region but in Africa. Muller said that National Employment Policies (NEPs) were insufficient to address these issues but a need for an integrated approach for pro-employment growth was needed.
“We need a shift in direction,” he said.He said NEPs were important but implementation across governments was the real challenge. Therefore, he said, meaningful mainstreaming of employment in national development frameworks and economic policy was crucial. He advised governments to include employment targets in national budgets.