The Environmental Investment Fund of Namibia (EIF), an institution with mandate to contribute to Namibia’s economic development by financing projects that promote best environmental practices has recently completed 2 years in active operation. The Fund has developed long-term human capital investment product in the form of Bursaries and research assistance; which alongside the already existing grants and investment type of financing is envisaged to ensure that the country is headed for economic growth that is beneficial to both Namibia’s population and its environment.
The programme which forms part of EIF’s 5-year strategic plan will include among others high profile areas of investments which include investments in training, research and education. The bursaries and research assistance programme is aimed at filling an existing skills shortage in the environmental field. It is no secret that the brisk pace at which Namibia is developing at a brisk pace and the shortage of professionals in the areas of environmental engineering, environmental law and other critical areas is threatening to place a huge burden on the environment.
This year alone, the fund has awarded bursaries worth N$ 1.2 million to 13 students undertaking undergraduate and postgraduate studies at various Training institutions both in Namibia and South Africa. The bursary awards are meant for the duration of the students’ respective study courses.
“It is encouraging to see that young people are increasingly realising the value their skills can play in the broader Namibian economy; particularly by becoming specialists in study fields that ensure environmental sustainability,” says Lazarus Nafidi, Head of Communication and Corporate Affairs of the Fund.
According to Nafidi, the Fund had received an overwhelming 150 applications for this academic year; an amazing feat considering that most of the areas of study EIF seeks to fund are either rare, under-funded or traditionally of little interest to people.
The Fund, which has been operational since 2012, is run on the principle that sustainable economic growth can become a reality by continually investing in training and related research. The skills shortage across important sectors in Namibia is well documented with the Namibian Employers Federation’s (NEF) countrywide survey of 2010 revealing that 96% of employers across all sectors admitting to a skills shortage.
Recent IPPR study of 107 companies found that there was a critical shortage in key professional fields such as: architects, engineers, physicists, chemists, computing professions, surveyors, cartographers, health professionals, jurists, physical and engineering science technicians and accountants.
The EIF is specifically targeting key professions instrumental in ensuring environmental sustainability and has for this year’s intake targeted aspiring professionals in the areas of Environmental management, Oceanography, Eco Tourism, Fisheries & Aquatic Science and Environmental law.
“These students are given an opportunity not only to construct their own careers, but at the same time plug a skills deficit in this country,” says Nafidi; referring to this year’s intake comprising of six female students and seven males, 10 of which will be undertaking undergraduate studies while three are at postgraduate level.
According to Nafidi, factors such as course relevance, academic excellence, affirmative action and special considerations were taken into account as criteria in selecting deserving recipients.
Nafidi also stressed that the Fund is hoping to enter into partnerships with the business community and individuals in the future to ensure that sustainability is achieved when it comes to capacity building.
In conclusion and on behalf of the Environmental Investment Fund of Namibia he emphasised that the achievement of the country’s strategic objectives of a better life for all Namibians depends, in the long term, on the level of education of Namibian citizens. PF