Knowledge is the key to Namibia’s prosperity

31 January 2020 | People

Jan Coetzee

Namibia is focused on creating a knowledge-based society where technology, innovation and entrepreneurship at every socio-economic level becomes the norm. This is a bold and major challenge for us as a nation.

Vision 2030 and the Harambee Prosperity Plan are both working towards this goal. This means that we have to do things differently and we have to do them fast. We need to stop conforming to the norm and present new methods of working and truly think outside of the box - perhaps even throw the box away.

Being able to see and act upon potential opportunities and possibilities for change through innovation is the only path to success. However, we need people to do it. This means that the business environment needs to change. It can only survive if Namibia can successfully compete and even flourish in the face of the range of emerging adverse and fluctuating business and economic conditions. We need to become service oriented. That does not just mean offering high-quality services, but adding value to the economy by selling services. Whether we offer ICT services, hosted services or even solutions like call centres for large international corporations. We have English and German speakers, internet access is relatively fast and stable and the labour force plentiful. The opportunity is there.

To set up would be a challenge for us as a nation, but it could really provide Namibia with opportunities and develop our economy and our people. We are not encumbered by old networks or ICT equipment that needs costly upgrades. We can fully embrace new technology, embrace cloud services and avoid mistakes that the early adopters made. We can engage and implement best practices and adapt them for our own needs and circumstances. We will engage and implement the best possible solutions, hardware and people to continue to improve our ICT rankings in the coming years, as well as gaining a competitive edge in the region since we are willing to use technology and innovation to our advantage.

We should develop home-grown talent through internships with relevant companies and by stimulating tertiary institutions to continue focusing on ICT skills development for the knowledge-based economy. If we look at other emerging nations that have made giant economic strides, it’s because they have embraced the service industries in all their forms. Vietnam, India and even Rwanda are developing and growing fast because they are focusing on this.

We have a chance to build networks, acquire and develop tailor-made technology that suits our particular set of challenges and issues, using the latest technology available. Consider the West Africa Cable System (WACS) or our 4G network that has connected our large but sparsely populated country. This is not a pipe-dream and certainly not impossible.

It almost sounds too good to be true and often seems a long way off. We can establish an environment where everything is set up to stimulate an innovative economy and be a catalyst for an innovative economic sector. This environment is facilitated by high-speed internet that is always on, stable and available nationwide. That is how we fulfil Vision 2030.

This is the only way in which the Namibian government and business leaders’ vision can be achieved. Another essential aspect of making Namibia a knowledge-based and driven society is through creating a business climate where processes are simplified and easy to carry out. With organisations having access to the right advice and making sure that knowledge and experience is developed, harnessed, shared and retained within the borders of Namibia.

By creating products and services that people value and cherish, and by effectively using technology, we can be competitive and become a knowledge-based society and be a new ‘success story’ for our continent, Africa, and the world.

* Jan Coetzee is the managing director of Headway Consulting