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By: Kelvin Chiringa

An expected crowd of 200 young people from all walks of life and across the political divide are expected to make a date with President Hage Geingob and interrogate key issues affecting them in various respects at the back of rising unemployment numbers.

The event will kickstart this coming Thursday at the statehouse from morning till noon.

Presidential press secretary, Dr Alfredo Hengari, has said the President is up for the task to deliberate on hot issues to come up with workable solutions to advance young people’s economic interests. 

“The President is committed to ongoing consultations and dialogue with different sections of our community and our country, and it is within that framework that the engagement with the young people should be viewed.

“To speak to young people, to hear from them. As you know, this was a very difficult year, the year of resilience as President Geingob has framed it. Therefore, it’s only normal that the President consults and engages with different sections of our country, which are indispensable as the country’s future,” he said.

Namibia’s unemployment numbers are so far expected to hit the roof at 50.3% by the end of this year, according to the United Nations Population Fund (UNPF).

Projections are that joblessness spiked from 43% in 2016 to 46% by 2018. 

The numbers have ignited a heated debate in the National Assembly, brought to the fore by PDM’s Inna Hengari, who is gunning for youth unemployment to be declared a state of emergency. 

The Namibia Statistics Agency’s (NSA) figures also show that all in all, the unemployment rate went down from 34% in 2016 to 33.4% in 2018.

Young people in business have also been left reeling from the staggering bout of the Covid-19, which have either shut down their businesses, especially in the entertainment and tourism space or sent them into the streets.

The UNFPA country representative Sheila Roseau is on record stating, “Namibia has a unique opportunity to invest in young human capital with the potential of socio-economic benefits.” 

She said, “Failure to provide education, create decent opportunities and access to health services for a youth-dominated population poses a potential threat to the economic and social stability of the country.” 

At the back of this, Dr Hengari told The Villager that Geingob is equally awake to the growing frustrations and anger in the youthful constituency, and he would thus want to hear from them as opposed to majorly addressing them. 

“It’s a discussion. It’s a conversation with young people, and you should not forget that this is not the first time President Geingob talks to young people. In 2019, the President had an engaging conversation with young people, and he has had a series of town hall meetings talking to Namibians about the challenges they face and also highlighting some of the successes we have scored collectively as a country,” he said.

In the meantime, Economics Professor Wim Naudé, writing for The Conversation this year, has observed that across sub-Saharan Africa, extreme poverty among young workers declined from 60% in 1999 to 42% in 2019. 

He said moreover, the youth literacy gender parity index, measuring the ratio of females to males ages 15-24 who can both read and write, has improved significantly, reaching 93% in 2019.

But Covid-19 is reversing these gains.

“There are fears that the pandemic will result in a lockdown generation, characterised by structurally higher youth poverty and unemployment. By slowing down the spread of the disease, Lockdowns generate benefits that “accrue disproportionately to older households”. But, the costs of reduced economic activity are disproportionately borne by younger households. They bear the “brunt of lower employment,” he said.

Kelvin Chiringa

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