SERVE’s Development Work in Namibia

In Namibia SERVE works with a partner, Young Africa.

Despite its vast size, Namibia has a population of just 2.5 million people. Since independence from South Africa in 1990, Namibia has had decent levels of economic growth, has developed a stable multi party democracy and implemented prudent macroeconomic policies. Access to basic education, primary health care services, and safe water is high and growing. However, due to Namibia’s long history of colonialism and apartheid, these achievements have not generated the number of jobs needed to overcome the extremely uneven distribution of income as well as widespread absolute poverty.

Namibia ranks at 128 out of 186 countries on the UN’s Human Development Index. Namibia’s Country Strategy Paper for the Africa Development Bank, produced in 2009, describes the main challenges faced by the country. HIV and AIDS is the major public health issue with a prevalance rate of 13.1% for people aged 15-49. Almost 30% of the population are living below the national poverty line. Namibia imports about 65% of its food requirements and has low levels of agricultural productivity  as 80% of the rural population depend on agriculture but contribute just 6% to GDP. This results in high levels of food insecurity – approximately 23% of the adult population are undernourished and 18% of children under the age of 5 are underweight. Life expectancy is just 52 years. Namibia has one of the most unequal income distributions in the world. According to the United Nations Development Programme for Namibia, the poorest 10% of households command just 1% of the country’s total income whereas the wealthiest 10% control more than half.

Young Africa Namibia empowers youngsters between 15 and 25 years of age through skills training and income generating projects.

Empowerment of young people through practical skills training and by encouraging them to earn a living through income generating projects. They teach young people to be self reliant.

Young Africa Namibia contributes to a world of equality and shared wealth. They empower underprivileged young people with skills of the hands to make them self-reliant, skills of the heart and mind to live with dignity, skills of the soul to live with purpose.

Young Africa aims to be a model green vocational training centre. The first course in solar technology started in March 2014.  The next step will be to renovate an old iconic building in the heart of Kuisebmund township and turn it into the Young Africa Skills Centre, using green building techniques. These innovative techniques will be taught to local entrepreneurs and be part of YA’s skills training programme.

Their model green skills training centre will bring together local entrepreneurs, students and the community in one place. The centre will offer practical and integral training in industrial and commercial skills. The departments will be franchised to local entrepreneurs who operate their business from the centre while training young people on the job. In addition, the centre will offer a range of services to the local community, such as a library, internet cafe, creche, meeting space, festivals and awareness raising activities.

The centre will be managed by a local team and become financially self-reliant through the rent that entrepreneurs pay.

Next to the centre in Walvis Bay, Young Africa currently runs four vibrant skills training centres; two in Zimbabwe and two in Mozambique. Together they reach out to 2500 youngsters on a daily basis. Founded in 1998, Young Africa has trained over 20,000 young people.

Active and Completed Projects in Namibia


Location: Fiskaal Street, Walvis Bay, Namibia

Partner: Young Africa (Namibia)

Funding: €19,990 (funded by SERVE & Electric Aid

Status: On Track

The aim of this project is to establish a Solar Technology Department at Young Africa (YA) Namibia. Initially, it will operate from converted shipping containers at a temporary location because YA is currently negotiating with the municipality of Walvis Bay to secure a site in Kuisebmund township where it can build the permanent YA Skills Centre.  Once the site is finalised, construction of the permanent Skills Centre will take place on a phased basis. Work is expected to begin in 2014 and the Centre will be operational by the end of 2015 and complete by early 2017. The Solar Technology Department will be incorporated into the permanent YA Skills Centre as early as possible (expected date is end 2015) with minimal disruption for the franchise holder or students.

The fully equipped Solar Technology Department will consist of two 10ft storage containers roofed with 27 Photovoltaic (PV) Systems and connected to 9 inverters. A PV System is one which uses solar cells to convert light into electricity. The power inverters are used to change direct current to alternating current. The Department will be run according to Young Africa’s Franchise Model, which is outlined in detail in Q9 below. This model has a proven track record of success in the TVET sector of Southern Africa.

The Solar Technology Department will provide TVET training in Solar Technology to 45 unemployed and unskilled young people per year (growing to 100+ when operating from the permanent Skills Centre). The intensive training course will be developed by YA Namibia and Pulzer Solar, a Dutch company active in several African countries. Pulzer Solar are going to take up the Franchise at the Solar Technology Department. They will focus on the sale, installation and maintenance of solar products and also plan to set up a small assembly plant in the medium to long term, which will benefit YA graduates. The course will combine theory and practical streams, life skills training and business skills training through the national Micro Credit Scheme (Ministry of Youth). Graduates will become familiar with the range of solar technology products on the market and will be equipped with the skills to install and maintain solar technology. Their ability will be assessed by Pulzer Solar at the end of term. They will be supported by YA to find employment/internships/futher study in the area of solar technology.

YA Namibia sees a duel route to the market for trained graduates. First, through benefitting from the established middle class and businesses who are increasing their demand for solar power. For example, the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Institute (REEEI) are in charge of the Off-Grid Energisation Master Plan for Namibia. They are responsible for the spread of energy shops/outlets in off-grid areas by offering solar recharge services and solar products. The REEEI struggles with the skills level of people currently working in these outlets, which provides a realistic employment possibility for YA graduates. Graduates can secure employment by being part of the workforce on large projects involving over 100 panels (e.g. farms) or smaller projects in private homes. Second, there is also demand for solar technology from poorer families who can benefit from a single solar panel with battery and various sockets to connect electrical appliances. There is income generation potential for YA graduates within this informal market.


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Location: Fiskaal Street, Walvis Bay, Namibia

Partner: Young Africa (Namibia)

Funding: €19,990 (funded by SERVE, Electric Aid & Lloyds TSB Foundation for Northern Ireland)

Status: Completed

The establishment of the Solar Technology training centre and installation of equipment went according to plan. Equipment from the Netherlands arrived on schedule. The shipping containers used to ship this equipment were incorporated into the training centre.

Building the simulation roof at Young Africa Namibia's Solar Technology Skills Training Centre Photo Credit: Young Africa Namibia

Building the simulation roof at Young Africa Namibia’s Solar Technology Skills Training Centre
Photo Credit: Young Africa Namibia

The focus of the course was installation of PV systems into households and businesses. A special simulation roof was constructed to train the students in mounting PV systems on the three most common roof types – tiles, fibre cement and IBR roof sheets. As there was no existing practical skills training in solar technology, without any entry level requirements, YA developed the course with support from local businesses and people experienced in solar technology.

The following results have been achieved:
1. A total of 25 students enrolled in the Level 1 Solar Tech course (Average age was 23, gender profile: 15 male/10 female);
2. 18 students graduated from the 3 month Level 1 Solar Technology course – graduation rate of 72%. See question 3 for more information;
3. All 18 graduates were placed with local employers to gain work experience. Of the 18 who graduated – 13 are now enrolled in the new Level 2 Solar Technology course being offered by YA Namibia (the reasons for the development of this course are outlined below), 2 are working in the solar technology industry in Walvis Bay, 3 are working in other industries in Walvis Bay. The employers who provided work experience for the 13 students now doing the Level 2 course are eager to employ them after they have finished the course in December 2014;
(4) A total of 25 young people benefitted from the Life Skills Training component, although the 18 students who completed the course will have benefited more. Evaluations of the Life Skills course showed that the vast majority enjoyed positive effects on their personality. It helped them visualise what they want to become in life, plan steps on how to get there and avoid risky behaviour that could threaten their plans. They also indicated that Life Skills should be provided to all young people in the community, it being – as one student put it – a bridge to a better life. A number of students even rated the Solar Tech course as “beyond their expectations” because of the addition of the Life Skills component;
(5) The YA Skills Centre is producing excess solar energy. This is being used by the Rural Constituency office (where the YA Skills Centre is based) who allow YA to use their premises for free. It is difficult to put a value on this arrangement.
(6) YA had a number of visitors during the year and they can be divided into 4 categories – (i) organisations interested in the YA training model – 8 organisations visited; (ii) companies looking for skilled employees – 5 companies visited; (iii) those interested in expanding/starting a business using solar technology – 18 companies visited; (iv) those wanting to switch to solar energy – 3 companies visited

The anecdotal evidence has shown that beneficiaries have experienced an increase in income especially during their work experience placements. Employers paid the graduates an attachment remuneration. YA has built up a strong network with solar companies in Namibia who have expressed the need for skilled people and offered to employ graduates after they have finished training. Having been unemployed or dependent on the informal sector, this will mean that graduates can expect an increase in income. However, measuring of this change has not taken place yet because 13 of the 18 graduates recently graduated from the Level 2 course which will finished December 2014

During the Level 1 course, the students expressed their wish for additional training, learning skills to connect both off-grid and on-grid systems (to batteries and inverters respectively). The Level 2 course is also incorporating training in the installation and maintenance of solar water heaters which are common in Namibia. This also opens up a bigger market for (self) employment for graduates.
As of January 2015, the Level 1 and Level 2 courses will combine into one single six month course. SERVE believes this is an appropriate response to the challenges and lessons from the first year of the project.

With support from Electric Aid, SERVE are now supporting the second year of the project which will begin in early 2015.

Level 2 Solar Technology Graduation Photo Credit: Young Africa Namibia

Level 2 Solar Technology Graduation
Photo Credit: Young Africa Namibia

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