I’m Worried, and You Too Should Be [opinion]

WHEN the outspoken Kazenambo Kazenambo (widely known as KK) declared, in Shinovene Immanuel’s article in The Namibian of 1 June 2015 that Namibia has three economies, social media blew up.

Those in agreement were cheering in support of his hypothesis. They also applauded his bravery to tell it like it is.

Those in disagreement saw hypocrisy of the highest order. How dare he suddenly trash it, if all along he was part and parcel of the system that he is now lamenting against? And by the way, which of the three economies does he belong to?

The relevance here, of course, is that KK was a parliamentarian on the Swapo ticket, a deputy minister and a minister. He also is still serving in the Swapo leadership structure as well as being a full-time businessman.

But that is KK for you. He is not new to controversy. He says many things, which some I agree with and others not. However, on his latest antic about the outlook of our economy today, I absolutely agree with his analysis.

The gist of KK’s economic prognosis, you may call it the KK doctrine, suggests that Namibia’s economic system is characterised by a private economy that is mostly off limits for most blacks an elite-oriented economy dominated by a few well-connected blacks, and an informal economy for the rest of the folks.

The first economy consists of well-established companies with a long history, considerable resources, and power. Most of their head offices are housed in South Africa or somewhere else. These may be your financial institutions, major retail stores, insurance companies, automobile companies, hotels and other hospitality businesses and commercial farming.

Their top and key decision-making structures are mainly populated by white faces as opposed to their clerks, security officers, cleaners and coffee makers. Also noteworthy is that they are sometimes characterised by poor records of employer-employee relations, paying the workers starving wages. However, they also engage in the affirmative action policy by nominating few black and coloured faces in their top ranks to mask their institutional racism and discrimination.

Those are profit-oriented economic players, and largely inaccessible to the majority of Namibians in terms of their creditsloan facilities, shares and customer services. Sometimes they engage in “philanthrocapitalism” by giving back to the communities – through charitable donations – but they do it for their own business interest to market themselves and create new markets for their products.

The second-tier of our economy is the playing field of the powerful, educated and the savvy. Those are your politicians, their relatives and associates. This economy is also home to tenderpreneurs and boardpreneurs (yes some people serve in more than 10 boards at once!).

Here is where you will also find your masters degree and PhD holders in the mix, using their education and the power of insider information to aance their self-interests at the expense of the outsiders and the vulnerable.

Because of the lack of start-up capital and expertise, the role players in the second economy largely play the middleman function by teaming up with pre-existing and well-established individuals, companies, and multi-national corporations. These practices are more prevalent in the mining, oil and fishery sectors.

The second-tier economic role players are often very materialistic, disconnected from and disinterested with the suffering around them, and view the countrythe government only as a cash cow for their quick self-enrichment. These (even worse than the first group) flaunt their loot, bringing greed and extravagant lifestyles to our economy.

They also bring economic dependency, economic distortion and short-term economic solutions to the economy by bringing in multinationals and other “foreign investors” seeing that their share and expertise-level to most of their new-found partnerships are very minimal.

And when such partnerships dissolve, the multinationalinternational partners leave their Namibian partners with a lot of cash but no expertise, managerial skills and technological know-how.

This is simply because for the most part those international partners bring their own experts, resources and have no incentive to empower their local partners except pay “rent”. To put it differently, they (international partners) merely see locals as fronts to help them penetrate the Namibian market but not as equal business partners, entrepreneurs and innovators. Can you blame them?

You may view the last economy as the limited, unregulated, fragile, unstable and struggling type. For the most part, this economy is confined to subsistence survival with none or little and unlinked from the mainstream economy. Lack of opportunities for innovation and development, low economic growth and inefficiency are what characterise this informal economy.

In this context, I am really worried – you too should be worried. This is because the three economies outlined in KK’s analysis are unequal and separate, which could result in serious economic consequences for the country because we are all interdependent.

Metaphorically speaking, the prevalence of three economies in our country simply implies that “a rising tide does not necessarily raise all boats”. In our case, many will perish under the tide. It means that the fruits of our post-independence economic growth have been and are being shared unevenly.

– Ndumba J Kamwanyah is a lecturer at Unam’s department of human sciences.

Source : The Namibian