Mar 08

Mayors, Councils and Governors Fails Economic Development

By Josef Kefas Sheehama

For more than 32 years, Namibian government has invested hundreds of millions in various strategies to support all regions. And yet, our regions still struggling with high unemployment, lack of opportunities and shrinking entrepreneurship development.

The local authority leaders should be subjected to public interview in order to appoint a suitable Mayors, Councils and Governors. The appointments should be based on expertise, not political affiliations. I am sure that parties do have well qualify loyal members. The individuals who want to be appointed as Mayor, Council as well as Governor should have the experience and expertise in commerce. The process of appointments must be clear and transparent, and appointments must be made for those who are suited to take those positions with the correct qualifications. These leaders are killing the regional economic development. They are not innovative and creative at all. They are killing businesses in their regions. The lack of vision and inefficiency of these leaders have resulted in the decline in service delivery. There has been total lack of quality leadership in the entire 14 regions. The magnitude of this failure is astonishing. It is unfortunate that many of the region leaders lack basic economic skills which is one of the reasons why the regions have not made much progress. Therefore, any leader that wants to be successful must have a good knowledge of the economy but some of our leaders do not even understand what demand and supply, which is the most basic aspect of economics. In all fourteen (14) regions, they are not there yet, but, we would be deceiving ourselves if we do not speak home truths.

Furthermore, the mayors, councils and governors are the cause of SME failure because they are not disseminating useful information. The Bank of Namibia and the Ministry of Finance and Public Enterprises have re-launched the SME Economic Recovery Loan Scheme on the 02 February 2023, but yet these leaders failed to set up meetings with SME’s owners. It’s dangerous to reduce citizenship to a shopping trip, where only fork out cash for things personally benefit from. That’s not how a society works. We build society through give and take, doing what is in the public interest. Hence, it is important for all governors, councilors, and mayors to come to the party. They are not elected to be office-bound. Innovation, creativity and agility need to be cherished and celebrated. They need to provide SMEs with valuable expertise and guidance, and help businesses develop leadership skills and build strong teams. Equally, mentorship and coaching programs can also foster innovation and entrepreneurship, contributing to a dynamic business environment.

Against this background, there is a need for an SME information Centre to be established across all fourteen (14) regions specifically to provide information to the SMEs on developments relating to market movements, latest developments and assist in linking SME operators to the service providers at affordable rates. Thus, it is crucial that regional leaders integrate the informal economy issues into the overall youth development issues rather than isolating the youth and the informal economy. So, across all fourteen (14) regions, SMEs do more than create employment. They will develop your region and reduce unemployment. They are also engines of economic growth and social development. The SMEs contribute more than 12% of GDP, and some global estimates put this figure as high as 70%. This contribution varies across sectors, and is particularly high in the service industry, where SMEs account for 60%. SMEs are a vital lifeline in a country, as they represent the grassroots that keep the local economy going by encouraging growth, employment and income.

The local authorities remain an important instrument in any government’s toolbox for societal and public value creation given the right context and collaborating with other stakeholders. They can be catalysts for sustainable value creation for the wider public, and can also build trust by being transparent and accountable through proper communication and reporting of objectives, activities, relationships and performance. Unfortunately, local authorities made a minor contribution to the government revenue in recent years but required significant budget support and pose sizable fiscal risks, as the portfolio lacks financial viability. This is total lack of tools, economic insights and expertise. Being unprepared to develop a corporate sustainability vision, strategy and framework is a monumental risk. Consider social decisions in which the decision-maker’s gains come at the expense of costs inflicted on others.

Moreover, these leaders should think without boxes by adopt economic development committee meeting in their regions. The Economic Development Strategy should, focused on providing support to local SME’s, identifying regionally significant employment areas, promoting the region as a location for business investment, and efforts to streamline the planning process while cutting red tape. I recognize there is a vacuum of leadership at the regional levels, which delays economic development for the betterment of the region. Our regions remains plagued by profound structural poverty and high unemployment. Expectations to solve this at local authority’s level are doomed. It is bad if both mayors, councils and governors are only relevant during election time. The failure of these leaders have an impact on households, small, medium and micro-enterprises and other investors in local economy. Economic growth, job creation and local economic development initiatives depend on the strong vision of the region. The business sectors become constrained when the leaders failed to function well. Households directly suffer the consequences when basic service delivery is poor. However these leaders can, and should empower SME’s. Combining our SME’s real entrepreneurial spirit can succeed to produce far more profound impacts than has been the case, despite the skepticism of neo-liberal and free market pundits.

Unemployment in our regions have acted the rural areas and the economic development of the country from a broad spectrum of socio-economic perspective. The failure of leaders to apply innovation and creativity ideas can lead to poverty and unemployment which is caused by lack of capacity and essential productive skills for both creative employment in existing organizations and for self-employment.

In conclusion, mayors, councils and governors really need to create working models, empower SME’s, which can be duplicated.

Therefore, I urge the mayors, councils and governors to pull up their socks on service delivery. SME’s have lost hope in the local authorities through its leaders. We want mayors, councils and governors who will coaching and mentoring our SME’s today not tomorrow.