Census Shows Govt Planned to Fail

Former president Hifikepunye Pohamba told his Cabinet at a review meeting in 2006 that by failing to plan they would have planned to fail.

If nothing else, the census summary the Namibia Statistics Agency (NSA) released on Wednesday shows that by treating the data gathering process as something ‘nice to have’ or an afterthought, the government indeed planned to fail.

Before the preliminary results were released, Namibia’s population was projected at about 2,6 million in 2023, up from 2,1 million in 2011.

Surprise! Boom, the population is more than three million! Youth up to 35 years old make up more than 71% when it was put at about 60% in the previous census.

Anecdotes of shack-dwellers have confirmed that a lot more people are fleeing rural areas, often in a hopeless quest for a better life in towns, which now accommodate 49,5% of the population – an increase of 25% from 2011.

No surprise then that about one million Namibians live in informal settlements where makeshift zinc, plastic and cartons are their homes.

In short, for many years, government officials have been sucking figures out of their thumbs to determine how and where to allocate resources.

By law, a census should be undertaken every 10 years. Namibia’s latest census was conducted in 2023 instead of 2021 after the government failed to provide money for the collection of crucial data.

Elected leaders and bureaucrats told the NSA that the government simply had no money to gather information that shows, for instance, how many people there are in Namibia, where they live and in what conditions.

Whatever money the government had, the argument went, was being used to address pressing needs.

It’s apparent that government leaders have no appreciation for the rhetorical question: “What could be more pressing than planning?”

The last employment figures were gathered in 2018 and, even then, the statistics were massaged to hide the severity of unemployment. Useful job data needs to be religiously tracked on a regular basis.

We shudder to think how many graduates are now unemployed, never mind the quality of their certification. The number of school dropouts before Grade 10 suggests that an unskilled labour force dominates the economy and unemployment.

With less than 7% of the population comprising the elderly above 60 years old, talk of increasing their pensions to help them look after grandchildren and other family members will not remedy the symptoms that lead to young parents leaving their offspring with the aged.

Some may have celebrated the population growth with jokes about heeding the words of founding president Sam Nujoma who urged Namibians to make more babies. But anyone keen on economics and social progression will know that the country is sitting on multiple time bombs.

Unless urgent action is taken to address the growing backward slide of the youth, Namibia will reap the opposite of so-called demographic dividends.

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