The Chief Executive Officer of Operations at Old Mutual, Sakaria Nghikembua says Namibia needs a concerted Public-Private Partnerships move particularly in the area of land delivery in urban areas, where local authorities bring in the land whilst the private sector brings in the funding and skills, as one of the solutions to fight the country’s many challenges.
Nghikembua, speaking at the Cryfish Festival in Luderitz at the weekend, sketched the context of Vision 2030’s current reality, citing high unemployment, a severe and increasing housing backlog, public infrastructure development backlog off the basis of a limited public budget, all of which is continuously hampered by a deep and far-reaching skills deficit.
Local business and government gathered to share thoughts on private and public sector partnership benefits to Namibia’s goals in the context of Vision 2030 and Nghikembua was asked to present thoughts on the role that the private sector can play in partnership with the Public Sector in order to accelerate both economic growth and development in Namibia.
Looking to what could be done to address the situation, Nghikembua suggests that a concerted move to Public-Private Partnerships needs to occur.
“Infusing more land into the market, will have a potentially positive effect on price levels, and people who need the land will get it, local authorities will get a once-off profit share as well as create a future income stream via property taxes and the provision of municipal services to the new properties”, he said. In turn, “affordable housing to low-income earners in urban areas (will become available). While at the same time, “there is also a need for Government to provide housing to public servants, such as teachers, nurses and policemen, serving in rural areas.”
To realize this objective, Nghikembua noted that “two things must be in place – funding and project implementation skills”, both available via the private sector. The opportunity is similar for public infrastructure development, yet another cornerstone for sustained economic growth, and the potential for new health centres, gravel roads, community halls and schools and public libraries, to address this deficit is an exciting goal.
Noting that: “Employed people buy what they need from private businesses” is a great motivator to private sector to seriously address the high unemployment rate; Nghikembua identified skills development; and active support to the development of SMEs.
A possible solution tendered by Nghikembua was the establishment of “a smart partnership fund into which all private sector players contribute a percentage of their payroll or a percentage of their profit, which-ever is the greater, to offer bursaries and scholarships to Namibians in areas of critical importance to our development and the realization of Vision 2030.”
Noting that SMEs create more jobs – and do so faster – than large companies, Nghikembua called for “systematic, synchronized and sustainable support to SMEs”.
With SMEs creating about 16 000 new jobs annually compared to 2000-3000 new jobs created by large companies, even if the average incomes from SME jobs might be relatively lower than those from larger corporate jobs, SMEs benefit a much broader part of the population.
Nghikembua called on the Namibia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NCCI) to be the body to coordinate private sector inputs in relation to TIPEEG, skills and SME development. The creation of an Enterprise Development Fund into which corporates can, together with Government, inject funds annually to train SME owners and their employees in areas that are critical to their success; as well as provide loans and mentorship support to a broad-base of SMEs throughout the country was suggested as a critical action to positive change regarding unemployment.
Reiterating that the future belongs to all who engage with it, Nghikembua said “We can do this if we choose to. We can reduce unemployment to single digit figures in the next five to 10 years. We can eliminate our housing backlog over the next five years. We can clear our public physical infrastructure backlog over the next five to 10 years. We can create a highly skilled economy over the next 15 years. We can achieve developed country status by the year 2030.”
He adds that better coordination between Government and business, increased trust levels between Government and the private sector, and collective ownership of national priorities, will make the change. “We need to execute better,” he said.