Understanding Poverty and Inequality in Namibia

Photo: UNDP Namibia
Photo: UNDP Namibia

As a middle-income country with one of the most unequal income distributions in the world, Namibia is a place of poverty amid plenty. According to the recent Namibia Household Income and Expenditure Survey, more than one in four households live in poverty. Furthermore, the poorest 10 percent of households command just one percent of the country's total income whereas the wealthiest 10 percent control more than half.

Statistics such as these emerge in frequent surveys conducted by the Namibian government but the surveys rarely are followed by extensive analysis. As a consequence, understanding the linkages between poverty, inequality and economic growth and what options exist to bridge the gap between rich and poor are key public policy challenges in this southern African country.

To strengthen national capacities to analyze and tackle these challenges, UNDP and Namibia's Central Bureau of Statistics joined forces with Laval University in Canada to organize an extensive training programme on poverty and distributive analysis. The trainers used an innovative software programme - Distributive Analysis/Analyze Distributive (DAD) - a user-friendly tool developed by Laval and designed to help developing countries conduct high-quality data analysis.

In the past, the ability to conduct complex computations such as calculating poverty measures, or the effect of policy reforms on poverty was exclusive to a small group of international agencies and academics. After learning DAD, Namibian researchers were able to conduct detailed analyses with their own data for the first time. "This type of practically oriented training is key to strengthening our ability to produce the kind of high quality analysis that policy makers can base their decisions on," said Liina Kafidi, Deputy Director of the Central Bureau of Statistics. The ultimate goal of the programme is to help Namibia make the best use of the statistics it gathers. "We need a better balance between our efforts in data collection, analysis and policy application," said Sebastian Levine, Senior Economist with UNDP's Namibia office. "DAD helps us do just that, and now we need to strengthen the community of local users and producers of data to take the work forward."

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