May 29, 2007

Conference on poverty reduction

Poverty remains a scourge that the world is grappling with, and the case is no different in Namibia, where stakeholders have been meeting to discuss how the country can find effective means to reduce poverty. The first national conference on poverty reduction, unemployment and entrepreneurship, taking place in Windhoek, is being held under the theme 'Entrepreneurship as an alternative source to employment creation and poverty alleviation'. About 80 delegates are attending.
According to official data released by the National Planning Commission (NPC), the northern regions - where most of Namibia's population lives - have the highest poverty rates. The Kavango Region tops the list at 50,4 per cent, followed by Oshikoto (47 per cent), Caprivi (46,7 per cent) and Omusati (43,5 per cent). The Hardap Region was also noted in this category.
Unemployment in the country increased from 19 per cent in 1993/94 to 36 per cent in 2004, while extreme poverty declined from nine per cent to four per cent during the same period. The NPC highlighted that poverty was rife in rural areas, adding that a survey had shown that "unemployment, inadequate assets such as livestock and land, and poor road infrastructure are the major problems in these regions."
Officially opening the conference on behalf of President Hifikepunye Pohamba, Minister of Presidential Affairs Albert Kawana welcomed the initiative, saying it would serve as a platform for stakeholders to share ideas on real issues affecting the majority of the population.
"I believe that this conference will indeed serve as a catalyst for other stakeholders to start thinking, not only about their role in the implementation of Vision 2030, but also about other aspects of social and economic development of our country as reflected in the theme of this conference," read Pohamba's speech. Pohamba said Government was aware of the difficulties facing SMEs and emerging entrepreneurs, hence the introduction of policies and setting up of industrial parks to assist in setting up their businesses. "Poverty is the biggest enemy of democracy, peace, unity, security and stability. It is, therefore, in our interest to address poverty as joint venture between the Government and the private sector."
The organisers of the event hope this conference would bring about meaningful recommendations to deal with the crisis. "It is our hope that after this conference, we as the Namibian nation will be in a better position to understand and comprehend the challenges and problems of unemployment and poverty and how to best address those challenges," said event co-organiser Tonata Shiimi of A-Z Investment Holdings.
Namibia's Third National Development Plan (NDP3) aims to reduce extreme poverty from four per cent to two per cent and cut the unemployment rate from 36 per cent to 30 per cent by 2011/12. (The Namibian, Windhoek)

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