Professor Lazarus Hangula, Vice Chancellor of the University of Namibia
Professor Kenneth Matengu, IGU Commissioner: Marginality, Globalization and Local Response
Dr. Innocent Moyo, Chairperson of the IGU Commission on African Studies
Distinguished IGU Conference Participants
Colleagues from the United Nations and the University of Namibia
Ladies and Gentlemen.
It is with great pleasure to be here with you today, to commemorate the Inaugural Conference of the International Geographical Union (IGU) Commission on African Studies as part of our collective effort to discuss what Africa’s response on global challenges is and Understanding the drivers of poverty and reducing inequality.
I would like to extend my gratitude to the University and its leadership for partnering with UNDP in hosting this conference.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is with outmost Importance for African countries to have an African perspective on global challenges to come up with interventions and solutions that are tailored to the African context. The African perspective has long been neglected in international discussions and this is why we are here this morning, the IGU Commission on African Studies will address this gap and put African solutions to global challenges to the forefront.
Director of Ceremonies,
Poverty and inequality remains a challenge across Africa, despite some remarkable progress made by the Northern African countries, the rate of reducing extreme poverty has been slow in Africa with a mere decline of 15% during the period 1990 to 2013. With a proportion of 41% of the population living below the international poverty line of 1.90 dollars per day, Sub-Saharan Africa still shows one of the highest poverty rate worldwide
One of the reasons for the slow decline of poverty rates in Africa is due to limited decent employment opportunities because Africa’s growth has not succeeded in creating labour demand that is sufficient to meet the supply. As a result, about two thirds of jobs in Africa are considered vulnerable contributing to persisting high rates of poverty among the working population, in fact, in 2015, one out of three workers in Africa lived in poverty.
Women and young people are the most affected by poverty in Africa, which also shows a comparatively higher mean of level of inequality compared to other developing regions. This is seen as a trend mainly driven by Southern African countries including Namibia, Botswana, and South Africa.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Let’s take a closer look at Namibia for example, Namibia has significantly reduced poverty levels over the last decade from 28% to 17.4% due to the establishment of a comprehensive social security system and stable growth rates until 2016. Namibia has been classified as an upper middle-income country. However, the classification as an upper middle-income country disguises a number of development challenges that the country faces.
With a Gini coefficient of 0.56 in 2016, Namibia remains one of the most unequal countries in terms of income distribution in the world. Some reduction in the level of inequality has been experienced since independence, but inequality levels remains unacceptably high. Inequality does not only reflect in the level of income, but saturates all other dimensions of human development. Significant inequalities persist in the access to basic services such as sanitation, electricity, health and education – for example, whereas 77% of urban households have access to sanitation, less than 30% of the rural households do.
Women, the youth, disabled persons and marginalized communities are the most affected by those inequalities. Inequality remains one of the major obstacles to development and the achievement of the SDGs in Namibia. In its Vision 2030 and the fifth National Development Plan, the Namibian Government has recognized the importance of reducing inequality in achieving the development objectives the country and the Sustainable Development Goals have set.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We need to take serious actions that are necessary to reduce poverty and inequalities in Namibia. It is absolutely necessary that we collect disaggregated data and robust research on the causes of poverty and this can only done if we fully understand the causes and drivers of poverty and inequality so that sound economic policies be developed.
It is also vital that we invest in human capital because a skilled labor force is necessary to meet the demand of the economy. Additionally, we should aim to not leave anyone behind because development policies need to give emphasis to the most vulnerable groups which are the women, the youth, disabled persons and marginalized communities.
Ladies and Gentlemen, and in conclusion,
National and international development agendas are clear - we must promote societies free from poverty and inequalities. It is thus important that we invest Research and Development with the assistance of Academia.
The UN, your ‘Partner of Choice’, is committed to ensuring that the message of reducing inequalities across Namibia is spread out there. I look forward to hearing and learning from your presentations for the duration of this conference and how we can tackle issues of poverty and inequality in Africa.
I thank you!