By Kelsey Goodman, MIPP Students
It has been almost a month since I arrived in Windhoek.
Windhoek is a small city in the heart of Namibia, spread out over rolling fields and peppered with German architecture — a hint to its colonial roots. To be fair, the German influence is evident in more than just buildings…I did not expect to have such unfettered access to oryx schnitzel.
I live in a secure complex with a lovely South African woman, her daughter, and two rambunctious pups. It’s spacious and modern, but it does feel bizarre to be surrounded by a towering electric fence. Although there has never been a break-in incident in our complex, the City Police did manage to bust a drug dealer that lived a few doors down. Never a dull moment.
The biggest issue I’ve had is with transportation. Boda bodas (motorcycle taxis) are non-existent, navigating by cabs is frustrating, and there was no other choice but to rent a vehicle from a comically stereotypical German mechanic. It’s an unanticipated expense, but necessary. There is not much of a walking culture outside of the city centre and walking after dusk is risky. In recent years, petty crime has been on the rise. The risk of being a victim of theft is even greater now before Christmas, so stockings can be stuffed with a new stolen smartphone or camera. Nice… in a morbid sort of way.
The UN House is about 2.5km down the road from my apartment. My colleagues are friendly, passionate, and hardworking. An unfortunate reality of the UNDP in Namibia is that it is underfunded and understaffed. Partial blame could be attributed to Namibia’s new status as an Upper Middle-Income Country (UMIC). Newly-appointed UMIC countries sometimes experience funding gaps, as previous capital streams are reallocated to other (re: needier) countries within the UN system.
In 2017, the Government of Namibia launched its 5th National Development Plan (NDP5). The Plan consists of 4 strategic pillars: Economic Progression, Social Transformation, Environmental Sustainability, and Good Governance. It was determined that UNDP Namibia would support three of the pillars, leaving Social Transformation out of its purview. While these pillars are considered separate, you can imagine that they are heavily interlinked.
Factors like political stability, sound macroeconomic policies and increased social programs have led Namibia to realize one of the fastest reductions in poverty in Africa, from 28.7% (2009/2010) to 17.4% (2015/2016). However, inequality remains a big concern. Namibia’s Gini coefficient, the standard measurement of inequality, is high at .560. In 2016, gender inequality is also high with a rating of .474 (figures for 2017/2018 are yet to be released). To combat inequality, projects under the Economic Progression pillar aim to create diversified employment and sustainable livelihoods, particularly for women, youth, persons with disabilities and marginalized populations.
Namibia is a great success in terms of environmental conservation, with 44% of its landmass under conservation management. However, the country is susceptible to both economic and environmental shocks. These two vulnerabilities play off each other, as Namibia is one of the driest countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. Climate variability poses significant risk to the rural communities, where poverty is most concentrated. Under the pillar of Environmental Sustainability, the focus is on mitigating environmental risks and creating better resilience to shocks. This, in turn, would improve economic sustainability. Underlying these projects are efforts to build on the capacity of government agencies, as well as ensuring accountability and civic engagement.
My role is Programme Assistant to the Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) branch of the office. M&E has plenty of work to complete by the end of year, including large-scale assessments on how UNDP projects have fared in 2018. I’m told that means I will likely be going on field visits, which is an aspect of the job that I’m particularly excited about. Additionally, I will support the roll-out of a new Work Plan for 2019-2023.
My direct supervisor will be leaving for home soon to begin maternity leave. She will be able to work remotely for a while, at which time I will serve as proxy. I believe January or February marks the beginning of her actual leave. I will certainly have my work cut out for me.