Namibia’s natural mineral resource dilemma and its link to poverty
In addition to our beautiful diverse natural wild life population, exciting tourism sites, various types of fish stocks and excellent meat products, among others, Namibia is further blessed with huge natural mineral resource deposits in diamonds, uranium, gold and copper just to mention a few. Therefore, the nation’s only true historic absolute and comparative economic advantage vis-à-vis the rest of the world lies in the significant ownership, exploitation and management of its natural mineral resources for the benefit of its people. Anything else to the contrary is simply not true as all else in the supply chain that filters into the economy is one way or the other linked to our natural resource foundation.
The country is, however in this regard, sadly faced with a huge dilemma of how to best utilise these natural blessings for the benefit of its people and hence as a default towards the intended attainment of its own socio-economic development programmes. This sad historic and current dilemma has, as a significant consequence, unfortunately opened up huge gaps – which are now being fully exploited by greedy foreign investors to the detriment of the nation.
This dilemma is further compounded by a significant lack of political and economic will by our government to, just after the attainment of our independence, come up with large-scale mining training and development programmes.
These national-driven mining training and development programmes could have in large numbers directly capacitated our indigenous population with the necessary theoretical and technical know-how, which would have enabled them to efficiently and effectively exploit and manage the nation’s natural mineral resources. This bold national development goal could have been achieved in such a way that returns on these natural mineral resources could have been equitably distributed for the greater benefit and economic growth of the country.
These sad state of events at the beginning of our independence is in my opinion the root cause of the many social problems and challenges that are now being experienced by our country. The country was supposed to, through a nationalistic approach, come up with a national natural mineral resources growth and development policy, which could have set the direction that would enable us to directly solve our challenges and to grow the economy. The above situation, which is directly linked to the sad state of the current economy situation does not unfortunately resonate with the true objectives of our struggle for independence as the ultimate aim was to be fully in charge of all that God has bestowed upon us as a nation.
In retrospect, Namibia had a very long history of colonial resistance, which was subsequently supposed to, as a result of its inherent natural mineral resources, propel it to its true economic potential and greatness. The country, through the brave leadership of Dr Sam Nujoma and many others, managed to successfully mobilise the indigenous sons and daughters of the land to take down the racist regime of South Africa. But somehow, in my opinion, the movement lost the same confidence and momentum it initially had in its own sons and daughters to eventually manage and benefit from their own inherent natural mineral resources.
The Namibian Government inherited in 1990 all of the nations’ significant tradable natural mineral resources, which they unfortunately decided to open up, without stringent socio-economic development conditions, to the highest bidder. What actually transpired immediately after independence is that the previously advantaged citizens retreated in great numbers to consolidate their private businesses in the areas of commercial farming, financial services, private educational services, insurance, retail, professional consulting services, construction, property development and rental, and tourism leaving a big chunk of the nation’s natural mineral resources in the hands of the government. The then leadership did not read the situation correctly to realise that the one true economic potential that it could have nationally embraced and focus on was to contextualise and quantify the magnitude of its natural mineral resources and how it could have best used that leverage to the benefit of the nation.
This sad historic turn of events is now seriously haunting and hurting the nation with many subsequent negative socio-economic developmental challenges while it sits on huge quantities of commercially verifiable natural mineral deposits that are in high demand worldwide. One major problem and challenge with this kind of negative natural mineral resource environment, and if not immediately fixed, is that even if the nation finds huge commercially viable oil deposits, the status quo will sadly still remain with the majority of our citizens in continued abject poverty, higher unemployment and destitution.
However, the key question to ask going forward is, is poverty, especially in the context of our history, a state of mind or not?
Pendapala Hangala is a socio-economist commentator as well as an entrepreneur and this article is written towards the aims and objectives of Namibia’s Vision 2030. firstname.lastname@example.org