Setting the stage for a national diagnostic of informality in Namibia

The Government of Namibia in collaboration with key stakeholders recently held a consultative meeting to enhance understanding and the extent of the informal economy in the country. The ILO Recommendation 204 will inform the policy and strategy development. A taskforce has been established to carry out a diagnostic of the sector.

News | 26 September 2023
(ILO News, Windhoek) Last week, the Government of Namibia, in collaboration with the United Nations in Namibia and bank of Namibia, convened a multistakeholder workshop to enhance understanding and the extent of the informal economy in the country. The workshop laid the foundation for a common understanding of what informality means, why formalization matters and what processes of transition to formality entail.

(From left to right) Mr. Veripi Kandenge, Secretary General, Namibia Informal Sector Organization (NISO), Mr. Kavihuha Mahongora, President, Trade Union Congress of Namibia (TUCNA), Ms. Annamarie Kiaga, Officer-in-Charge, ILO Harare, Mr. Ebson Uanguta, Deputy Governor of Bank of Namibia, Hon. Lucia Iipumbu, Minister of Industrialization and Trade (MIT), Hon. Utoni Nujoma, Minister of Labour, Industrial Relations, and Employment Creation (MLIREC), Ms. Hopolang Phororo, UN Resident Coordinator, Namibia and Mr. Pendapala Nakathingo, Secretary General, National Bus and taxi Association (NABTA).

To signify the importance of the workshop which was jointly convened by the Ministry of Industrialization and Trade (MIT) and the Ministry of Labour, Industrial Relations, and Employment Creation (MLIREC) there was a total of 126 stakeholders from trade unions, employers’ representatives, representatives from various informal economy associations and non-governmental organizations, the private sector and development partners.

In welcoming the participants, Ms. Hopolang Phororo, the UN Resident Coordinator in Namibia reminded them of the central role that informal labour markets play in achieving several SDGs. “The transition to formality” she said, “contributes to achieving SDG 8 by promoting inclusive growth and access to decent work; SDG 1 through higher incomes, reduced poverty and extended social protection coverage; SDG 4 by promoting a better access to skilling and re-skilling while contributing to address low levels of education; SDG 5 by supporting the economic empowerment of women; SDG 10 by reducing inequality, in particular between women and men in the world of work and by facilitating orderly, safe and responsible migration; SDG 16, through higher respect for the rule of law; and SDG 17 through effective integrated strategies based on revitalized global partnership.”

On his part, the Deputy Governor of the Bank of Namibia, Mr. Erwin Uanguta quoted President Franklin D. Roosevelt, saying, "The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little…” He further cautioned the meeting by saying: “The gravity of today's gathering resonates deeply. So, I urge all of us to contribute actively, share our unique insights, and work collaboratively. Together, we are poised to redefine the contours of Namibia's economic tapestry.”

Addressing the meeting, Honorable Utoni Nujoma, the Minister of Labour, Industrial Relations and Employment Creation (MLIER, reiterated the vital role that the informal economy plays in the livelihoods of many Namibians. “It encompasses a diverse range of activities, from street vending to small-scale agriculture, and it touches the lives of countless individuals and families. It is a source of income, employment, and resilience for many, and at the same time presents challenges in terms of labour rights, social protection, and economic stability.”

Honorable Lucia Iipumbu the Minister of Industrialization and Trade (MIT), in her keynote address cited Article 98 on Principles of Economic Order from the Constitution of Namibia. It articulates the country’s desire to advance a mixed economy that includes the development of small scale, family, and other entrepreneurs in the informal economy. “Enterprise development is a key mandate of the Ministry of Industrialization and Trade” she said. She alluded to the existence of a draft National Informal Economy, Startups and Entrepreneurship Policy (NIESEP) which would be tabled for wider national stakeholders’ consultations.

The workshop is the first of many to be facilitated by the Taskforce on Informality that includes MIT, MLIREC, Bank of Namibia, the UN Resident Coordinator’s Office, ILO, UNDP, and UN Habitat.

This collaboration is built upon the recognition that the high levels of informal employment in Namibia have significant implications for people, enterprises and the country's economy and social development. The proposed National Diagnostic of Informality in Namibia will include the assessment of the spatial dimension of informality and is meant to enhance the country’s understanding of the informal economy it is diversity, identify pathways to addressing the associated challenges, while highlighting opportunities for intervention.

(Seated from left to right) Mr. Henry Bruwer, President, Namibia Employers Association (NEA), Ms. Barbara Van Der Westhuizen, Treasurer, National Union of Namibia Workers (NUNW), Dr. Michael Humavindu, Deputy Executive Director, Ministry of Industrialization and Trade (MIT), Mr. Veripi Kandenge, Secretary General, Namibia Informal Sector Organization (NISO), Advocate Vicki ya Toivo, Special Advisor to the Minister of Labour, Industrial Relations, and Employment Creation (MLIREC).

As the technical lead, the ILO availed three of its experts to facilitate the workshop and two others to contribute to discussions. Working with the National Statistical Authority (NSA), Florence Bonnet, a Labour Market Specialist, took participants through key concepts and definitions of informality including the difference between informal economy, informal employment, and informal sector and what the diagnostic will entail. On her part, Annamarie Kiaga, Specialist on Informal Economy, presented the Recommendation 204, its guiding principles and policy guidelines for facilitating transition to formality in view of situating the process under the overall goal of poverty alleviation through advancing decent work and social justice. Informality as a cause and a consequence of inequalities in an economy were articulated by Alessandro Batazzi, Inequality Specialist.

The UN Habitat advised that policymakers and financial institutions could collaborate to develop tailored strategies that promote inclusive development, reduce spatial disparities, and unlock economic opportunities in Namibia, benefiting both the local communities and the financial investment portfolio.

With the integration of the diagnostic into the ongoing processes of developing the Global Accelerator and its roadmap, the message was clear. The high levels of informal employment in Namibia have significant implications for the country’s economy and social development. It is imperative, therefore, to reduce decent work deficits and vulnerabilities in the informal economy and facilitate pathways to formality to enhance capacities of participants in this sector so that they benefit from inclusive and green economic development which should in turn reduce poverty and address social inequalities.

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