Thinking Aloud: The Darius Index, Namibia

May 18, 2014 by Darius 

[Two months ago I introduced the Darius Index, which aims to measure the discrepancy between a country’s wealth – as measured by GDP per capita – and what that country does with the money – as measured by the UN’s Human Development Index.  See]

This week we’ll check out the #9 country on the list, Namibia.

Namibia, like Botswana, is a developing economy in southern Africa.  Many of the same factors present in Botswana also present in Namibia.  About half of Namibians depend on subsistence agriculture, but the country also has a significant diamond industry.  Tourism also makes up a major part of Namibia’s economy.

Corruption in Namibia is problematic but not terrible: Namibia ranks 57th worldwide.  A larger problem is education: since 1980, the expected years of schooling for Namibians has only risen by 0.2.  Additionally, despite the fact that a plurality of Namibians live off subsistence agriculture, food shortages, especially during droughts, remain a part of life, and Namibia must import food.  Finally, HIV is a significant problem in Namibia, though not to the extent it is in some neighboring countries: approximately 10% of people in Namibia are HIV-positive.  AIDS has caused Namibia’s life expectancy to remain lower than it otherwise would have; life expectancy has only increased 4.7 years since 1980.

To be fair, Namibia is a young country, having achieved independence from South Africa (which took Namibia off Germany’s hands following Germany’s defeat in WWI) only about 25 years ago.  To close the gap that lands it at #9 on the Darius Index, Namibia will need to use its natural resources – both mineral and environmental (tourism) – to improve food and provide better education and public health systems.  With steady economic growth, that’s a realistic possibility.  In fact, just this week scientists announced that Namibia may eradicate malaria by the end of the decade, having used a vector-borne disease program to target communities most at risk and reduce malaria cases by 97% over the last 10 years.

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