Background information on general situation in Namibia
Namibia gained its independence in 1990 and has since been a stable and peaceful multiparty democracy. In March 2005, the second president of the Republic of Namibia was inaugurated and hence the democratic system proves to be strong. The population is about 1,8 millions. The official language is English. The population growth is currently 2,1%, and 44 % of the population are under 16 years. 62,6% of the population lives in rural areas and 37,4% in cities. In 1998, Namibia had an unemployment rate of 35%. The official statistics by the Ministry of Labour document that unemployment has steadily risen to 36.7% by 2004! This distressing situation becomes even more aggravated for younger people as well as for women: Unemployment among teenagers and young adults is dramatic. Among the 15-19-year-olds the unemployment rate is 64.6%, and among the 20-24-year-olds it is at 57.4%.
Poverty in Namibia is prevalent throughout society. Poverty in Namibia has many different faces. According to the latest survey by the National Planning Commission of Namibia, 75.9% of Namibia’s population live below the poverty line. (LLS, 1999:vii). Calculated from the National Income and Expenditure Survey (NHIES) 93/94, the average person in Namibia spends only US$ 1.5 per day. In addition, Namibia has a Gini-coefficient of 0.7, meaning that Namibia is the most unequal society in the world.
The Basic Income Grant (BIG) as a general solution for increasing poverty?
Description of the Basic Income Grant project:
At the end of 2006 the understanding in the BIG Coalition grew that the BIG campaign needs to be taken a step further by starting a pilot project of the BIG in Namibia. The background is that a pilot project might be able to concretely show that a BIG can work and will indeed have the predicted positive effects on poverty alleviation and economic development. Spearheaded by Bishop Kameeta this idea has been inspired by the concrete (or from a theological perspective “prophetic”) examples, like e.g. English medium schools or township clinics during the apartheid era. In fact, also more recently, this has happened with a project run by the Treatment Action Campaign and ‘Doctors without borders’ and the provincial government in Cape Town. They started a treatment project in a township in Cape Town at a time when it was said that a rollout of Antiretroviral (ARV) therapy is good but certainly not practical in a developing country. The pilot project was successful and has subsequently changed the opinion on ARV rollouts in developing countries.
The BIG Coalition argues that while it is the ultimate goal to lobby Government to take up its responsibility to implement such a grant, the Coalition should lead by example. The BIG Coalition fundraises in order to pay a Basic Income Grant in one community. Thereby it sets an example of redistributive justice through concrete action to help the poor, and to document what income security means in terms of poverty reduction and economic development. The BIG pilot programme is the first of its kind, to concretely pilot income security in a developing country.