Industrial Devolution to Where? [opinion]

For nearly 25 years Namibia has been singing the same song – industrialise, industrialise, industrialise.

We have also been saying that privatising, or closer to the truth, putting most public utilities under private operations will be more efficient! The former I once supported as a good thing and so long as our actions were carefully selected, there were areas of commerce and manufacturing where success could be possible and which could even lead to growth.

Immediately after independence I submitted proposals to various political figures and members of the business community. I recall there were about 20 possible areas where profit and growth were possible! Naturally, after all these years that work has disappeared (anyone still got a copy on file?) but my memory tells me that little happened apart from a brief burst with leatherwork, ostriches and growing shellfish.

In a similar vein I thought that some commercial operations run by government would benefit from a dose of private enterprise, specifically energy, transport and utilities. Again I even wrote up process ideas but my then employer, GRN, showed distinct disinterest in my methodology! Well, we tried.

So I return to my opening statements, privatise and industrialise, where I suggest we have missed the original boat and our “privatisation” has lost its way and does little more than provide overpaid jobs to a few proven incompetents (there are some exceptions, though!) and most appear to be unable to deliver their brief without constant refinancing by the national budget.

Any possibility of serious industrialisation under current policies beyond our traditional businesses of beer, fish and grapes seem to have evaporated as commercial relationships between foreign suppliers and local businesses seem to have cemented themselves into the economic realities of Namibia with the serious bonding agent of “financial benefits” being gained outside our tax regime!

The additional glue preventing policy and practice change is our blind adherence to NDP4 and Vision 2030 which is clouding innovative rethinks or radical creativity entering our culture. Going against these two documents and indeed not quoting them is a sure way for ideas to get axed!

So how do we move on? How do we find productive and profitable work for our under 30’s apart from beyond short-term sales or service jobs or the deliberate policies of some to only use “temporary labour” to avoid tax payments and social security sign-ons while paying “training wages” – a common practice even in parastatals, let alone shops and petrol stations!

There is no simple answer to this but it is not too long before those making huge amounts personally from their tenders through connections, will finally come under closer scrutiny by the rising tide of dissatisfaction. And such a tide has significant dangers of creating instability. Is the rise of ‘Malemarism’ and a swing in the EU against the unelected power base ever-increasingly controlling people’s lives less and less successfully, a possible omen to change in Africa?

There does seem to be a swing away from pure economic measurement as an indicator of national condition or progress towards a broader measure based on social situation. Quite simply, having half a country’s workforce unemployed and broke is hardly a measure for long-term stability however much is spent on bullets, teargas and police!

It seems, in a rather “Henry Ford” model, that all workers should be able to afford a basic car and that such will grow the economy to increasingly benefit all! It seems that we have to choose a different road from developed countries and do things our way (as Africans – all billion of us) and make our own goods for ourselves without huge safety devices, computer controls or incredible comfort. We need to be able to get around, fix things ourselves and live from African products even if quality has to suffer for a while!

We must revise our legal and social systems to provide service and realities to our people and not constantly do what brings us “noddy points” on the international prize lists – they can follow when we have our people working and spending money on “made in Africa”.

It is about time we looked honestly at our African situation where over the last nearly 60 years Africa has become self ruling. The wonderful policies and predictions by multiple leaders have however led us nowhere. We are still a continent dependent upon technology, money and products to support us – all from outside. Our natural wealth and talents flow out, borrowings and foreign goods flow in!

Time is now up, somehow we have to grow our own African economies and eliminate our dependence on others. Let us build on what we have, not on what we pretend to have!

Revolutionary thought and actions are surely not beyond our African minds?

Source : The Namibian