The National Planning Commission recently launched a National Human Resources Plan a first for Namibia. We spoke to Sylvester Mbangu the Chief National Development Advisor who unpacked the various components of the plan geared towards development of the requisite to drive the nation forward.
PF: You have just launched the National Human Resources Plan 2010-2025, will you say this is a first for Namibia, why so?
SM: Indeed, this is the first comprehensive National Human Resource Plan to be developed and launched here in Namibia. However, let me state that an attempt to develop such a Plan started earlier in 1996, which resulted into a National Human Resource Report (2000 to 2006).
Secondly, let me clarify that, this does not mean that there has been no human resource development activities. In fact since the Transitional National Developmental Plan and (NDP 1, 2 and 3) and now we are in NDP 4, human resource development has been a national development strategy for realising national objectives, hence Government has invested more both in education and health.
Indeed, here we are talking of human resource development in terms of Labour Market, i.e. supply and demand of labour.For simplicity, there are four categories for human resource development, that is:
Labour Market Human Resource Planning,
Decentralised Human Resource Planning, this is the planning which takes place within ministries, firms and organisations,
Universal socio-economic planning to secure acceptable social standards, this is where we do plans such as NDPs where we plan for all socio-economic aspects of a person that is also aimed at human resources development, and
Non-universal socio-economic planning, where you have some targeted groups for example the orphans, the ex-combatants and the aim is to secure acceptable social standards for these special groups.
PF: Why specifically the Labour Market and why now?
SM: As indicated earlier, this is a Labour Market Human Resource Plan. Labour is recognised and looked at first and foremost as a “factor of production” in the process of production of goods and services. The questions which come to the fore are where do we get this labour, what type of labour in terms of quality and specialisation in relation to the goods and services the country need to produce.
How effective and productive is this labour? In answering the question why this plan, one has to say, we need this plan to transform our economy into a knowledge based economy. The success of our economy will depend on the innovation and creativity of our labour force in production and differentiation of our Namibian products and services.
Why now? They say better late than never. Development is a process which is happening in an ever changing world, the least we can do it is to change with time and respond to the challenges of the time. It is much better if we can even anticipate the changes and put mechanism in the process so that we are not overwhelmed by the challenges.
PF: What are you intending to achieve with this Plan?
SM: Our objectives could be classified on two levels, on the high level what we want to achieve is to:
Increase economic growth and create employment,
Develop required skills in the economy,
Develop knowledge required for a knowledge based economy, you are aware that through Vision 2030 we want to create a knowledge based economy, and
Overall we want to increase the standard of living of the Namibian people.
While on the lower level we want to:
Achieve labour market balances in other words we need full employment of factors of production and those factors of production include labour,
Reducing adjustment cost,
Increasing productivity and efficiency,
Reducing social and economic problems arising from labour market imbalances; a shortage of doctors, high unemployment,
Reduce mismatch in the labour market, and
Improve personal and public investment decision.
PF: Would you say this plan, comprehensive as it may be it has come a little too late given the huge problems of youth unemployment and skills shortages?
SM: Of course yes, however in relation to other nations the Namibian nation is still young, but you are aware that the situation we find ourselves in was perpetuated by another human race. With limited financial resources it was not and it still is not easy that we could have turned the tables in a shortest possible time.
As a country we have achieved a lot in a shortest span of time, but still I still acknowledge that we have a lot to do. Time is not with us, time is not standing, the world is not standing, our people will not wait forever a lot still remains to be done.
PF: What will you say are the most challenging factors in creating the required workforce for Namibia?
SM: Firstly it has to do withplanning and execution, planning comes with many things and we need to prioritise, you cannot do everything at once. You have to choose what is important for you and what is urgent. But given the fact that the needs are so overwhelming coming from independence and our dark history the temptation is to want to do everything at once.
The resources and time will not allow you the full implementation of your plans because you have spread yourself too much. When you spread too much the impact you have is that you have little of everything and hence the impact is small. But when you prioritise you tackle issues and have a greater impact so that tomorrow you tackle other issues.
Secondly it has to do with the growth and diversification of the economy. There is something they call egg and chicken relationship, you either start off by developing the economy and then develop the human resources later or develop the human resources and then grow the economy at one stage.
But I must say that it is better to grow the economy and diversify because when you grow the economy you create the demand. And when the demand has been created, then you prioritise by skilling and training those people so that they can be productive and then you continue increase economic growth.
Thirdly it is education and training, this education and training for sure is a lifelong learning. You cannot say you will train and stop at one time. But this education and training should be fit for a purpose. Let us not train for the sake of training especially in institution of higher learning. It seems like we are training for the sake of training thus why we have a mismatch of skills in the country.
We have people who are trained but may be they are trained for the wrong reason and this is why they cannot get jobs. Thus why sometimes they take jobs they are not trained for and then they become inefficient and they are not productive.
When we are training we overlook that in the process we are also using human beings and we should take care of them and I am referring to teachers, in my language there is a saying that, “Ku tobetandobekusiya mu wayo, direct translation means” kissing the fish and forget the spear,” we embrace the products which come from that school and training institution and forget those who are training. Eventually they get disgruntled and hence fail to give their best effort in their work.
PF: Poor education especially primary has been cited as one of the stumbling block in enhancing skills, how are you taking it up as NPC?
SM: For a start primary education is a foundation, if this foundation is not properly laid out, whatever you build on, will be just as strong as the foundation. If the foundation cracks the whole house crumbles. Therefore primary education is important. Now through our NDP-4, we are proposing some measures which need to be taken and these include:
Improved learning standards and curriculum development, our curriculum should respond to the current needs not because it is teaching,
Teacher development, teachers need to be developed they need to know their subjects and they ought to have passion in what they are doing not because they could not get jobs elsewhere and now they have to go for teaching.It should be taken as a profession and a calling,
We are proposing in NDP 4 that we should ensure the availability of text books and learning materials.
We need to have a stringent learner assessment,
We should improve on improve infrastructure development, and
Lastly we have identified in NDP 4 we need to expand Early Childhood Education(ECD).
PF: How do you intend to coordinate the implementation of this plan?
SM:The implementation strategy for this plan is based on a systems approach. There is a need for the institutionalisation of the human resource development in this country. System approach means looking at all elements in that system of human resources planning.
Therefore it includes all stakeholders if you read our document you will realise that there is a proposed structure which will include the government, the private sector and the NGOs. It is proposing that we establish what is called the Core Working group which is composed of these elements I mentioned earlier on.
Even in that Human Resource Core Working Group we are going to have what we call Sectorial Working Groups. This has started already through the Namibia Training Authority they have created these groups with the private sector. The Sectorial Working Group is a group working with the NTA and member of the private sector in a particular field. This will enable to bridge the gap between what the skills are required and what is supplied by learning insitutions.
Therefore we want to strengthen those Sectorial Working Groups and create even more, so that whatever the industry needs they talk to those who are offering the training. I am sure you are aware of the training levy which will soon be introduced so that the private sector can be help to contribute in training and skills development.
Therefore this is what the plan is proposing, it is a holistic approach, for that matter the private sector are also beneficiaries at the end of the day because without skilled people they will not be able to make profits, therefore they need that, government on the other side we need people to be skilled so that we can meet all our national development objectives and therefore we need each other. We are going to have an action plan with defined roles of different stakeholders and thus how we are going to coordinate these plans.
PF: Too many good policies on paper yet little on the ground, what are the challenges here?
SM: Before I come to the challenges, the good thing in Namibia is freedom of expression. My expression may hold today, and may not hold tomorrow, may hold in a particular case but may not hold on the other.
I fully agree with the question but it does not hold in every aspect, yes we have been slow in the implementation of our polices but also they are many areas where we have implemented, therefore it is too general that all the policies have not been implemented Having a good policy is one step in the right direction, but not sufficient. Not having a policy at all, is having a bad policy.
The challenge here is that we lackwhat we call an integrated plan, it is related to what I referred earlier as the systems approach where everyone wants to do his or her things. Without acknowledging that what we are doing is an input in the process towards a single goal.
Even in our NDP 4 we have realised that let us not have too many objectives but rather let us have few objectives, few actions and lets us prioritise and let us have few sectors on which we are going to make an impact.
PF: How do you intend to monitor and evaluate the NHRP?
SM: The monitoring and evaluation strategy will be developed linked to the operation action plan. Despite, this the NHRP is part and parcel of the NDP 4 process and will be monitored as such. Since planning is not an event by a process- every year will undertake a skills audit in the process we will be aware on where there is progress and where there is no progress.
PF: Is there any information which you want the people to know out there?
SM: The public should know that the National Human Resources Plan is a plan of choice. It’s not a plan for the National Planning Commission, even in the process of developing it was not developed by the National Planning Commission. But it was developed by all stakeholders, therefore it is a national plan.
The National Planning Commission is not an implementer at all, we put policies but they need to be implemented by other stakeholders. Therefore what one could appeal is the cooperation from stakeholders and that we should have one vision, this plan addresses issues which we need to consider in order achieving Vision 2030.
Everyone in the country is in agreement that we need our human resources here, the country is rich, we have all the wealth and raw material, but it needs to be transformed into goods and services which we can consume and sell outside the country and make money but without the skills we cannot do anything. Therefore let everyone cooperate!. PF