A million Namibians are broke

Barely one in ten people have savings to fall back on when they run out of money, a new survey by the Namibia Statistic Agency shows.

20 August 2018 | Economics

Jo-Maré Duddy

For Agnes B*, like the rest of the nearly one million Namibians now part of a new official statistic, it is tough to keep up with paying accounts and to meet financial commitments every month.

They all form part of the 2017 Namibia Financial Inclusion Survey (NFIS) of the Namibia Statistics Agency (NSA) that shows 68.5% of the eligible population finds it hard to foot their monthly bill.

In 2011, when the previous NFIS was done, the figure was 61%. It has since increased by 238 617 people.

Agnes B is part of the 364 090 Namibians who find it “very difficult” to make ends meet every month. Only 166 041 of the nearly 1.5 million people surveyed don’t find it difficult “at all”.

Nearly 80% - or 1.16 million – earn N$5 000 or less every month. Most – more than 470 000 – have to make do with a maximum monthly income of N$1 000. Only 9.7% are lucky enough to take home more than N$11 000 every month.

Barely one in ten people have savings to fall back on when they run out of money. Close to two out of three people will get money from family or friends. Only 3.2% will be able to borrow money from the bank - 3.1% will have to use a loan shark in the community.

Overall, about 42% of Namibians rely in some sort of borrowing. In 2011, the figure was 32%. The majority of those surveyed said they fear debt. When they do borrow, it is mostly to buy food (41.6%), clothes (18.3%) and pay for housing (7.4%).

Payday

For 62.5% payday means getting cash in hand, while the monthly income of 37% is paid into their bank accounts. Of these, 68% withdraw all their money at once.

Nearly 93% of surveyed Namibians use their money to buy food and groceries, 44% pay their water bill and 28% purchase electricity.

Only 7% pay their store accounts and 5% honour their loan repayments. About 17% save something for a rainy day.

Nearly one out of five people surveyed by the NSA agree that they buy things even if they can’t afford it. About 26% said they would rather buy something on credit than saving for it. Nearly 27% admitted that they often spend more money than they have, while 26% are impulsive when it comes to spending.

Nest egg

About 1.2 million Namibians practice some sort of saving, the NSA report says. Saving through formal mechanisms has, however, dropped from 63% in 2011 to 60% in 2017. Informal saving is up from 1% to 2.9%. Nearly 43% of women save money, compared to 38% of men.

About 48% of those surveyed have savings accounts at banks. Of those who don’t have bank accounts at all, 94% said it is because they do not have enough money to save or coming into the account. About 1% said bank accounts “aren’t for people like me”.

Should they receive a large sum of money and did not want to spend it, nearly 80% of Namibians said they would put it in the bank. 9.8% said they would keep it at a safe place at home, while 9.2% would give it to someone else for safekeeping.

Included

The core of the NSA’s survey was to establish how many Namibians are financially included or have access to financial services.

The latest NFIS shows 78% of Namibian adults are financially included, compared to 69% in 2011 and 49% in 2007.

Of the financially included, 72.6% are formally served – 67.7 are served by commercial banks and 52.8% by non-bank formal institutions. Nearly 24% use informal financial mechanisms.

*Agnes B is a fictional name.

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