By Kelvin Chiringa
A local economist and former manager of economic and market research has raised a stern warning on Namibia’s job outlook in the wake of a looming jobs bloodbath in South Africa in which Standard Bank is set to lay off 1 200 jobs with most of them being taken over by machines. Mally Likukela said what is happening in South Africa will likely sweep into Namibia leaving many in the streets as the country remains ill-prepared for the technology driven 4th Industrial Revolution.
However, the bank remains adamant that local jobs will remain secure despite the policy shifts in South Africa while its communications officer, Sindano confirmed that workers have not registered any fear of job losses. Likukela asked, “when the parent in the house becomes poor what happens to the children? They also get poor. If South Africa cuts 1 200 jobs this is like a Head Quarter, what happens to the branches? They also have to streamline. Saying Standard Bank Namibia will not be affected is not true.”
The Twilight Capital director maintains that what is happening in SA is a strategic decision which is supposed to be streamlined to all the subsidiaries across Africa.
“Namibia not performing well is more reason to cut on their workforce. The technology is taking over. If Standard Bank goes ahead to embrace technology they have no choice but to cut on their workforce.” The new wave of technological revolution has been received with a mixture of emotions with the central concern being whether it will create more jobs than it can potentially destroy.
This was a theme that President Hage Geingob touched on in his message to the workers on May Day. He said Namibia and Africa as a whole cannot afford to be left behind in this technological evolution. “This new reality, which we cannot avoid, means that considerable investments must be made to support education and skills development that will swiftly and adequately respond to new developments.
As a top priority, the education curricula in our region need considerable reorientation to better respond to emerging and future labour market needs.”
“It is only in this way, that the labour market can play its stabilising role as a source of income and livelihoods for the majority. Furthermore, there is a need of retooling, across the entire labour force spectrum, if we are to ensure that our workers are to benefit from 4th Industrial Revolution and not become victims of it,” said the President. Yet how prepared is Namibia to embrace the emergence of new technologies in the work space?
“My quick view is Namibia is poorly prepared for technology and the impact of artificial intelligence will be severe because no investor will want to come to a backward nation like Namibia.
Because our technology is so backward we are going to miss out,” opined Likukela.
He added, “Investors will want to go and invest in Singapore because they know their products will be technologically compliant. So the loss on the investments means there are no jobs created in the sectors.
The little jobs that we have will be wiped out by the modern technology that we are going to import.”
Manager for Communications at Standard Bank, Magreth Mengo has in the meantime emphasised that “the article that has been circulating relating to branch closure leading to cutting of 1200 jobs in South Africa has nothing to do with Namibia.” She said the machines that are being mentioned is a result of the bank moving towards a digital banking model.
The jobs bloodbath in the banking sector has also this month affected regional partner Zimbabwe where Standard Chartered Plc cut 20 jobs.
These jobs have been reportedly migrated to China, Malaysia and India further compounding the country’s precarious unemployment situation where the number of the jobless has reached more than 90%.
“Outsourcing some activities to the parent’s global business services division is aimed at trimming costs as more customers embrace digital banking” says a Zimbabwe Mail report.