Tuesday 11 May 2021
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Harambee Plan: Prosperity for some or all?


President Hage Geingob will on Tuesday launch his much-awaited Harambee Prosperity Plan, a plan that he envisages will deliver prosperity in Namibia. The introduction of the concept prompted questions all across the country whether the Harambee plan will replace the existing National Development Plan and how it will be resourced. Measures to address the burning inequality trends in the country are also expected to feature prominently in the plan.Poverty eradication has become synonymous with Hage Geingob since he assumed power just over a year ago, but the time for delivering exquisite speeches, making promises and building a team to help him bring prosperity to the Namibian nation ends on Tuesday.

Geingob will reveal his grand “Harambee Prosperity Plan” to the nation in the National Assembly when he delivers his state of the nation address. The nation will from there onwards expect nothing but commitment and tangible results.But as Geingob prepares to give an account of the state of the Namibian nation, the excitement to see the contents of the Plan could overshadow the primary role of a State of the Nation Address-that of giving an account of the nation’s state.Sources alerted The Patriot that the National Assembly’s recess that was scheduled two days after the state of the nation address has been postponed because there are plans to table a Food Bank as well as a Harambee Bill.

Steytler explains Harambee
Although Geingob continues to keep the core contents of his plan a secret, those around him have come out and explained that the plan will not substitute or compete with the National Development Plan 4 that ends next year.“It is a more action-oriented plan that will fast-track some issues identified in Vision 2030,” said Geingob’s economic advisor Dr. John Steytler during a broadcasted interview on state television earlier this week.
With the Vision 2030 policy launched more than a decade ago, Steytler said some contents of that policy needs to be updated.

“From the time it was introduced to now, the world looks different now. Some issues are more pressing now than they were in the past,” he said.
According to Steytler, Harambee will be solely focused on action, adding that: “That is the difference between NDPs and Harambee.” Unlike Geingob who opted to keep his plan under wraps, Steytler was on full throttle, as he partly undressed the plan and how it will work.“NDPs are long-term, cross-cutting and broad. Harambee is more focused and has fewer issues. In education, for instance, the plan will not focus on the entry level which is early childhood but rather on science and research and vocational education,” he revealed. In terms of monitoring, Steytler said monitoring will top the agenda, so much that Geingob himself will also visit sites.

The plan is premised on pillars such as social development, effective governance and service delivery,infrastructure development andeconomic development. The biggest challenge undoubtedly will be bridging the divide between rich and poor, and by doing so, those who currently struggle to fend for themselves will be empowered to work towards having a dignified life. Several policy interventions aimed at redressing the apartheid legacies have not yielded the desired results because it is still classified as one of the most unequal societies globally, despite the abundant endowment of natural resources complemented by a small population of 2.2 million people.

A country faced by electricity and water challenges, high inequality and unemployment rates, housing and land crisis and rising cost of living, the nation awaits to see Geingob’s plan to defeat these challenges. The country’s political stability has over the years allowed government to become complacent when it comes to addressing social grievances, forgetting that the lasting social grievances may yet disrupt the country. Government has consistently lamented the fact that the implementation rate of projects aimed at improving the lives of Namibians is poor, but nothing     tangible has been done. At least this time around, Geingob looked to address the situation when he appointed Penny Akwenye as his policy advisor on implementation and monitoring. This was evident last year when thousands of landless Namibian came close to occupying land by force. The situation was so dire government had to step in and reach a compromise deal with the movement that mooted the land occupation and committed to service 200 000 plots.

Where did Geingob get the Harambee concept?
Harambee is a term used in the discussion of economic and social development in Kenya. This is similar to concepts used in countries such as Tanzania’s ‘Ujamaa’ and Zambia’s ‘Humanism’. The concept was started by former Kenyan President Jomo Kenyatta in 1963. It is used to denote collective effort, community self-reliance, cooperative enterprises and all forms of self- reliance. According to Kenyan scholars, Harambee reflects a bottom-up rather than a top-down development project initiation. It is also said to be heavily bias towards the use of local resources such as local human labor and power and it is guided by the principle of the collective good rather than individual gain. “Harambee is more than a propaganda phrase and contrary to some opinions, Harambee is not a means by which peasants in Kenya are manipulated by the elite,” scholars said in a case study on the Harambee concept in Kenya.

Can the original Harambee succeed in Namibia?
It is a question many of those who are familiar with the genesis of the Plan have asked since Geingob introduced the term in the “Namibian House”. Pulling together is not the problem, but the big question asked by Kenyan writers and scholars is whether the Harambee Plan which should be crafted in such a manner that it benefits the masses instead of the elite minority can be successfully introduced into a profit-driven society is feasible. Like in Kenya at the time of the introduction of the plan, Namibia’s economic structure is heavily aligned to capitalism, although not explicitly stated. With the advent of tenders in the country, the scramble for resources is on a winner-takes-all basis with cronyism, patronage and the well-connected calling all the shots.

The role of the private sector
This remains a mystery until Tuesday, but the private sector already presented its wish list to the President earlier this month. Chief amongst those wishes is the call for a leaner and efficient civil service. Government is currently struggling to contain the high public wage bill, which stands at N$23 billion for the 100 000 civil servants annually. Namibia Chamber of Commerce and Industry declared that it is in support of the food bank strategy to eliminate hunger but it wants to know how the private sector can contribute. Thousands of Namibia continue to go to bed hungry every night. The 2015 State of Food Insecurity Report released by the United Nations (UN) states that at least 966 000 of the 2.3 million Namibians were undernourished in 2014, compared to 621 000 in 2002. Other wishes include the creation of a public procurement Ombudsman, promotion of e-governance, land ownership reforms, strengthening youth programmes, solution to water and energy problems, privatize SOE’s and 50% tax on gambling activities.

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