Mark Hannam


Southern Africa: 2020 Vision

Printable version

Hegel and the End of History



On Thinking

On Unhappiness

On Purposefulness

On Striving

On Failure

All Things are Accomplished Through Money

The Doubly-Excluded:
consumer credit regulation in the UK

Corporate Governance: origins and challenges

Proposals for a price cap on high cost short term credit

The Need for Roots?

Syria: the Economic Implications of the Civil War

In Praise of Non-Bank Finance

The Price of Money

Numbers 4 Good

Borrowing Freely

Sceptics Knock Success

Life, Liberty and Access to Credit

Osborne's Banking Reforms: A Hedge Too Far

Always Spend Wisely ....

A Truly Ethical Foreign Policy

Southern Africa: 2020 Vision

Mervyn Turns a Tidy Profit

Private Banking for the Poor

Teaching Jurisprudence in Namibia

George - Don't do that!

Do the Math

Two Cheers for the Walking Wounded

That's Fair Enough

What Crisis?

How to Stop the Next Bubble

Muhammad Yunus

Rethinking Risk

On the 24th and the 25th of August 2009, a conference took place in Windhoek, Namibia with the title: Southern Africa: 2020 Vision. Public Policy Priorities for the Next Decade. The conference brought together academics, civil society activists, politicians and business people from Namibia, South Africa and Europe to consider topics in four areas: economic development, healthcare, democracy and governance, and legal and civil rights.

Speakers were encouraged to use a scenario-based approach to bring a focus to their presentations and the ensuing discussions. Speakers were asked to assess likely developments and outcomes in their area of expertise over the next ten years, including assumptions about resource allocation, the quality of governance and the development of infrastructure. Through discussion the conference aimed to identify areas of consensus and areas of disagreement, both with regard to the aims of public policy and with regard to the relative priorities that should be accorded to policy in different areas.

The conference was a great success, not least in its impact with the local media. The second day began with the organizers drawing attention to the front page of The Namibian, the largest-circulation English language newspaper in the country, which reported on a number of the presentations from the first session of the conference on the previous day. Press coverage continued for some days, in the principal English, German and Afrikaans language papers, the best examples of which are collected in the Appendix to this volume.

Throughout both days of the conference, speakers addressed matters of central importance to Namibia and the wider region in frank and open way. There were some sharp questions and some lively discussions among the conference participants at each session, but all took place within a positive framework. This volume reprints all but one of the papers presented at the conference, in the order in which they were given.

Economic Development
The first session of the conference focused on economic development and, very appropriately, was opened by Peter Katjavivi, Director General of the National Planning Commission, Windhoek. In his helpful and open assessment of the current state of development in Namibia, Katjavivi emphasizes both the promising achievements of the post-independence years with regard to economic growth, but also the grave inequalities of participation in, and benefit from, that growth. Furthermore, as he points out, Namibia's future economic prospects are vulnerable to major exogenous events, such as the current slowdown in world economic growth and the threats posed by climate change. For these reasons, notwithstanding the priorities of the Namibian government, the country's future economic prospects remain uncertain.

Katjavivi's paper is followed by Vekuii Rukoro, a leader of the Namibian financial community, who elegantly illustrates some of the tensions between regional integration and national sovereignty, from the perspective of his experience within the banking sector. Rukoro argues that Southern Africa needs to develop an integrated business and political agenda for the region, if it is to operate successfully on the world stage, and not simply remain prey to external competitive forces. He also has some words of caution about the relationship between Namibia and China, and the need for the Namibia government to abandon any naivety in its dealings with foreign governments, whether they be former colonial powers or former allies in the liberation struggle.

The third paper in this section, by Henning Melber, returns to the theme of inequality in Namibia. Melber is trenchant in highlighting the role of political and economic elites across Southern Africa in the development of economic policy, and the pitfalls of growing dependence on extraction industries and tourism. Like Rukoro, Melber calls for a regionally defined and owned strategy, but in his case he emphasizes that such a strategy is needed not just for business, but for benefit of the poorer members of society, whose interests are often overlooked. Without this, he warns, the region is more likely to see declines, rather than gains, in the economic well-being of the majority of the population.

The final paper in this session was delivered by Calle Schlettwein, Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Finance. Schlettwein begins by describing the innovative new system of programme, or output budgeting used by the Namibian Treasury, outlining aspects of the impressive success Namibia has had in meeting its goals to date. He warns, though, that development throughout the broader region is threatened not just by economic dependency but, more insidiously, by intellectual dependency, in the sense of adopting models and solutions introduced by outside donors and international agencies. Namibia has attempted to resist both, by ensuring, for example, that high priority projects are funded not by donors but by the Namibian government itself. He concludes by setting out a series of recommendations for development in the region.

The second session of the conference concerned issues relating to health and healthcare and begins with Anne Johnson's account of priorities for healthcare for the coming decade. Johnson highlights the very limited progress that has been made with respect to health improvement in Southern Africa, and, indeed, the fact that challenges such as that from HIV/AIDS have reversed recent health gains. Johnson also points to the problems caused by what she calls 'vertical' programmes to address health problems, which are particularly focused on a single disease. While it is understandable that donors and international organizations would seek to focus their efforts in this way, the effect has often been that, by attracting health workers from other parts of the health system, vertical programmes can have a seriously adverse effect on health systems as a whole, thereby undermining such things as maternal care and public health. Johnson recommends that in future donors and international organizations re-focus on 'horizontal' programmes, that is programmes that strengthen health systems as a whole. Such a change will also be needed if countries in Southern Africa are to be able to deal with the changing pattern of disease associated with economic development, such as increases in obesity and heart disease.

Markus Haacker continues the argument by documenting the progression of HIV/AIDS in Southern Africa, and its macro-economic consequences, including the very different spending levels on HIV/AIDS in different countries of the region. Very surprisingly, Haacker finds that the macro-economic effects of HIV/AIDS are nothing like as severe as its social effects, and, indeed, there is no evidence that the epidemic has had a discernible effect on economic growth. He suggests that the reason for this is that growth in the economies of Southern Africa is highly dependent on a small number of industries, such as mining, which employ a very small part of the potential work force. Wealthy companies are better able to manage the health of their workers and, in extremis, workers who become too sick to work can simply be replaced by others, drawn from the large pool of labour outside of the mainstream economy.

Finally in this section David Lush describes the HIV/AIDS epidemic from the perspective of someone who has been living with HIV since 1990, and who experienced firsthand the responses of a medical profession that found itself confronted by a disease that it could not cure. Lush argues that the profession has treated people living with HIV (PLWHIV) as 'living under a death sentence'. It has regarded them as incapable of taking care of their own health and, instead has treated them as being in need of 'control' for the sake of public health. Such an uncomprehending approach contrasts with the constructive response of PLWHIV who, through their own efforts, communication and organization, have come to understand how to manage their own health, with the help of the medical profession but not at their command. The healthcare system also needs to take a more inclusive attitude towards health workers who are themselves living with HIV. Lush is now a health activist, helping to develop support groups that work, to some degree, in partnership with the medical profession; a hard won, but highly beneficial outcome.

Democracy and Governance
The third session begins with a series of introductory questions by Monica Koep, the Chair of the Institute for Public Policy Research, and a local consultant on civil society and governance issues.

This is followed by a paper from Steven Gruzd, who discusses the African Peer Review Mechanism. Gruzd explains the roots of the APRM, as an African initiative to promote better governance for Africa once the decolonisation process was finally completed in the 1990s. As Gruzd points out, independence needed to be followed by improvements in political participation and decision-making, as well as by economic development. The peer-review mechanism itself is based on an extensive self-assessment questionnaire, and followed by a procedure of review and report. It is a unique process, which aims for transparency and which holds Heads of States up to public scrutiny by their peers. Perhaps for this reason, however, those countries that have agreed to go through the peer review process have tended to be the most stable and successful. Namibia has, to date, chosen not to participate in the Review process.

André du Pisani raises the question of the prospects for liberal democracy outside of those countries that participated in the Enlightenment and thus hold a range of Enlightenment beliefs and values. In the case of Africa, the diverse cultural, historical and political factors that have influenced the drive to democracy have led to a variety of democratic forms and experiences, including cases where democracy has been imposed from outside. As a result not all attempts to introduce democracy have taken root and 'democratic reversals' have been experienced in a number of countries in the region. Du Pisani argues that in the coming years we are likely to see a continuation of uneven democratic development, which raises the question of whether the standard model of liberal democracy is the best way forward for the development needs of the peoples of the region.

The final paper in the third session by Justine Hunter and Theunis Keulder, both of the Namibia Institute for Democracy, looks at the role of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) in Namibia. Currently there are around 460 Namibian NGOs, a large number considering the small population of the country, although some of these are very small and virtually inactive; perhaps only 25-30 operate at any scale, many funded by external donors. The health sector, for obvious reasons, has seen a substantial rise in activity in recent years. Hunter and Keulder provide a comprehensive picture of the situation in Namibia, focusing on the activities of NGOs and their relationship with government. While in many respects the picture is encouraging, it is also fragile. Many NGOs are, in effect, elite organization reliant on donor funding; they are not grassroots organizations growing out of popular movements. This is a problem both in itself and for the sustainability of civil society, and many other challenges for the sector are documented here. As democracy relies on a vibrant civil society, especially where the ruling party faces little effective political competition, it is vital that the NGO sector is maintained and strengthened.

Legal and Civil Rights
The fourth and final session, on Legal and Civil Rights, contains two papers, the first of which, by Nico Horn and Isabella Skeffers, is a remarkable account of the fight against corruption in Namibia. Historically this was not helped by the weak legal framework on this issue, until the passing of the Anti-Corruption Act of 2003. Before this Act only public officials could be found guilty of bribery and sanctions were very limited. The new Act is a great improvement, yet, argue Horn and Skeffers, contains limitations. Unlike the parallel South African act, on which the Namibian Act was modelled, it omits special provisions regarding corrupt offences for members of the legislative authority, judicial officers and prosecuting authority. Accordingly the authors argue that while much progress has been made in setting out a legislative framework to tackle corruption in Namibia, much more work remains to be done.

The final paper in this volume, by Joram Rukambe, considers political and electoral rights in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region. There are many positive signs and indicators concerning the embedding of democratic process and political freedom. For example, Rukambe notes that there are no journalists currently in prison in the SADC region. On the other hand, state interference in the media may be on the increase in some countries. For the future, Rukambe argues that the influence of 'liberation politics' will fade, the concern for good governance will rise, and information technology will improve democratic processes. Yet all of this could be derailed by economic crisis or by a turn to more violent political processes. A co-operative 'walking together' scenario is possible, although it is not, unfortunately, the only option.

Final Thoughts
Do conferences such as this make a difference? It would be easy to be sceptical about their value and it is therefore reasonable to ask whether and how they make a meaningful contribution to beneficial change. Indeed, this topic is the subject of a short "Commentary" piece by Eberhard Hofmann, published in the Allgemeine Zeitung of 28th August 2009, which is reprinted in the Appendix to this volume.

Yet, as Hofmann himself observes,
It remains essential for the development of the complex Namibian society that the public discourse on burning issues is kept alive, always anew and with the indispensable sharpness in the encounter between politicians and the (academic) civil society.

It is just this public discourse that the organizers set out to promote at the Southern Africa: 2020 Vision conference. The aim was to facilitate an encounter between politicians, academics and civil society representatives, from Southern Africa and from Europe, to promote discussion and debate that are constructive and educative. We believe we were successful. There are no easy answers, but this volume identifies many of the hurdles and suggests ways of building on existing initiatives that might move Namibia, and the wider region, in the direction its own people wish to take it.

Taken together, the papers in this volume provide an extraordinarily rich account of the current state of, and challenges for, the region, and especially for Namibia. Namibia is a success story: it is politically stable, with a functioning democracy and a growing economy. Yet it remains a highly unequal society and its political and economic successes have not been evenly shared. Over the next decade the main challenge is to address such inequalities, not simply by redistribution, but by putting in place structures that will continue to spread political and economic benefits to the population as a whole.

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© Mark Hannam and Jonathan Wolff, 2010

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