Written by Dr. John Steytler

Namibia is ranked 91st globally when looking at per-capita GPD, with an income of around US$ 4,730. -Which is not a lot and isn’t when you compare it to a nation like Norway. Their per-capita GDP at present hovers around US$ 67, 000.- per annum. The first question to ask is, why on earth would I compare Norway and Namibia with each other? One is a highly developed European prosperous country, and we are still facing massive challenges as Namibians, although we are developing at a rapid pace. Comparing our two nations is like comparing apples and oranges. Well, the reason for the comparison is that Norway’s success is built on the foundation of oil and other natural resources such as fishing and hydroelectric power.

With oil having recently been discovered on the coast of Namibia, and further discoveries of millions of barrels of oil being likely, we need to start looking to the future as Namibians. Resources can be a blessing or a curse for a country, there are many examples of it being a curse across the world. Where a few well-connected individuals benefitted beyond their wildest dream and the rest of the populace languished in poverty. Namibia is determined not to make that same mistake; the potential revenue generation of the oil discoveries and the subsequent industry and peripheral activities need to be harnessed properly and in a transparent and accountable manner. We are potentially on the cusp of an economic miracle as a nation.

Norway did this when oil was discovered back in the 1960s, transforming the country and the destiny of its population. The Scandinavian country realized that the oil revenues generated should be invested in a fund that would ensure responsible and long-term management of its oil and gas resources.  

The Norwegians realized early on that they had been given an opportunity to create a better life for its citizens, with the key phrase being ‘for future generations.’ Our small country has now been gifted this opportunity as well. The famous quote from Nelson Henderson; “The true meaning of life is to plant trees under whose shade you do not expect to sit, is what Namibia is aspiring to do with the potential oil and hydrogen gas revenue. Creating a future for the country where every citizen benefits. The United Nations has 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG)s, where the baseline goal is to Leave No One Behind (LNOB). With long-term forward planning, oversight, and proper checks and balances in place, a Namibian sovereign wealth fund will transform Namibia into an economic and social miracle. Where hospitals, schools, education, and first-class infrastructure for everyone are the norm and achieving the UN SDGs will be the natural outcome.

This is not a pipedream; Norway has shown us it is possible. The blueprint of success exists, we just need to create an African version that will suit our unique set of circumstances. I would go even further and state that we need to ‘Namibianize’ this Sovereign Wealth blueprint. It is about building generational prosperity where our children and our children’s children, and the nation are the beneficiaries. This is how industry and politics can truly build a long-lasting generational legacy, where politicians become celebrated statesmen and will be remembered long after they are gone. By learning and implementing the best practices from overseas, Namibia’s Sovereign Wealth Fund will work in service of all Namibians. One of the most important things to do is to remain in charge of our resources by ensuring that we as Namibians are fully-fledged partners that engage on an equal footing with the companies that will exploit the licenses, drill for oil and develop the Green Hydrogen plants.

We must be patient, and smart and show our citizens and the world that we can manage our resources and fulfill our potential for the good of the nation. Thereby over time closing the GDP per capita gap with Norway and other prosperous nations.

Cobus Theyse
Author: Cobus Theyse

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