Small Enterprise and Entrepreneurship Development Volunteer

Before You Apply

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Project Description

Peace Corps Namibia’s Community Economic Development (CED) project promotes small-scale economic development through the reinforcement of entrepreneurial and business management skills in Namibian communities. Current business development service (BDS) providers are mainly limited to formal businesses in urban centers, neglecting thousands of potential and existing small enterprises across the country. In addition, significant income disparity, high and consistent unemployment, increasing urban movement, and the HIV epidemic contribute to an environment in which CED Volunteers hold great potential to lift the most disadvantaged from extreme economic hardship, or move a nascent business to new profitability, benefiting families and communities.

Despite Namibia’s classification as a ‘lower middle income’ economy, huge disparities still exist. Namibia is ranked as one of the lowest countries in terms of income/asset distribution in the world, and the Government of Namibia cites “high and persistent unemployment,” estimated to be as high as 34 percent of the population, as a “key weakness” in the Namibian economy. Limited job opportunities in the formal and/or government sectors coupled with inadequate skills training necessary for self-employment have contributed to a perpetually high—and even increasing—unemployment rate since 1970. Furthermore, an expanding urban population, primarily youth seeking improved economic opportunities, is expected to rise significantly from 43 percent in 2006 to 75 percent by 2030. This places an incredible strain on resources and reinforces the importance of creating diversified economic activities and skills development, especially in rural areas.

Volunteer placements vary greatly, from very rural conservancies to urban Chambers of Commerce and municipalities. All CED Volunteers will manage a learning environment - some in Vocational Training Center (VTC) classrooms teaching entrepreneurship and basic business, some in formal trainings and workshops for businesses, and some through one-on-one mentoring in business incubators, or similar environments. Depending on placement and community needs, Volunteers may work with farmers, youth, women’s groups, town council leaders, and/or business owners.

The CED program has been well received in Namibia; and stakeholders and beneficiaries of Volunteers work, like Chambers of Commerce, town councils, small NGOs, and community members, have expressed strong interest in the program’s continued success.

Peace Corps Namibia promotes gender awareness and girls’ education and empowerment. You will receive training on gender challenges in your country and you will have the opportunity to implement gender-related activities that are contextually appropriate. During your service, you will look for ways to work with community members to promote gender-equitable norms and increase girls’ sense of agency. As part of your work, you will also report on these efforts and their impact.

The HIV/AIDS epidemic, with a National prevalence rate of 33.3% (Sentinel Survey 2016), is exacerbated by and further contributes to poverty in Namibia. In the face of limited opportunity (both perceived and existing), individuals are often obliged to make decisions jeopardizing their health. Additionally, the epidemic is assumed to simultaneously increase expenses (related to medical care) and decrease household income (related to reduced labor capacity). You will likely play a role in helping to improve the quality of life of individuals living with HIV and AIDS through the establishment of income generation projects and promotion of HIV and AIDS awareness and prevention.

Required Skills

Competitive candidates will have one or more of the following criteria:
• 5 years' professional experience in business management or organizational development
-OR-
• Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science degree in any business discipline

Desired Skills

The most qualified applicants for these positions will have practical experience in one or more of the following areas:
• 3 years professional experience in business management or organizational development;
• Small business development and/or development of income generation activities for Non-Profits or community groups;
• Business management;
• Finance;
• Marketing;
• Accounting;
• Organizational development;
• Strategic plan formulation, implementation and monitoring

Previous experience owning or managing a business is highly desired.

Required Language Skills

There are no pre-requisite language requirements for this position.

Though English is the official language of Namibia, the country has many different languages from an array of language families (Khoekhoe, Bantu, and Germanic). Most Volunteers encounter a variety of languages in their communities, either different dialects of the same language, or different languages entirely. Throughout Pre-service training, Volunteers will take intensive language classes and live with a local family to facilitate learning the language of their region in preparation for their service. However, self-study after arriving in their community is a must for any Volunteer wishing to be successful. It should come as no surprise that becoming highly proficient in a local language is directly linked to Volunteer success and satisfaction!

We find that those who have prior success in learning another language are able to more quickly pick up local languages in Namibia.

Living Conditions

Namibia's national anthem proclaims it as "beautiful contrasting Namibia," and this could not be more appropriate. Namibia's two million citizens live in the second least densely populated country in the world. Still, urban centers in the four "O" regions of north central Namibia (population of one million), modern coastal cities of Walvis Bay and Swakopmund, and the international capital Windhoek buck the notion that this desert nation is always sleepy. Namibia suffers from one of the world's highest income inequalities, giving CED Volunteers incredible opportunities to make an impact, and placing before them great need.

While CED Volunteers are commonly placed in urban or peri-urban centers, there are several CED Volunteers serving in very remote areas. Volunteer housing largely differs based on site placement. Some Volunteers live in their own apartments with many modern amenities, while others live on their Vocational Training Center grounds in a single room, or a modest house. Most houses have indoor plumbing and electricity. CED Volunteers who serve in remote communities live in traditional housing with no indoor plumbing or electricity. Flexibility and adaptability are desired characteristics for any potential Volunteer.

Namibia's weather and climate vary greatly by season and region of the country. Summers can be very hot, and winter evenings quite cool. Volunteers will do a great deal of walking. It provides a wonderful opportunity to participate in the daily life of your town - to see your neighbors and (importantly) to be seen by them. It is not uncommon to walk several kilometers each day to get to trainings, visit clients, etc.

When traveling outside the site, Volunteers will use public transportation (taxis and mini-buses), sometimes for a full day or more, to get to their banking and shopping towns, the capital, or attend local and regional trainings and conferences. Peace Corps will provide you with a modest monthly living allowance with which you will live at the same level as many of your community members. This allowance will enable you to buy meals and some clothing and to travel, and will be used for miscellaneous expenses.

You will develop social and working relationships with a variety of people, become familiar with local expectations and customs, develop an appreciation of local foods, struggle with local languages, and learn to live and work with necessities rather than comforts.

Volunteers who are of an American racial, ethnic, or national minority, or whose religious or spiritual beliefs differ from the majority of their host country may find they experience a high degree of curiosity or unwanted attention. Please be aware that American concepts of politeness and appropriate behavior are not universal. Ethnically, nationally, or racially diverse Americans may be asked where they are “actually from” or if they are “really” American. Many Volunteers turn these encounters into learning experiences, share American values, and deepen community members’ understanding of Americans.

While Namibia is generally tolerant, values and mores concerning sexual orientation and gender identity may be different from those in the U.S. Volunteers will need to be mindful of cultural norms, and use their judgment to determine the best way to approach sexual orientation and gender identity in their communities. Staff and currently serving Volunteers will address these topics during PST, and identify support mechanisms for incoming Trainees.

Learn more about the Volunteer experience in Namibia: Get detailed information on culture, communications, housing, and safety — including crime statistics [PDF] — in order to make a well-informed decision about serving.

Medical Considerations in Namibia

Namibia may not be able to support Volunteers with the following medical conditions: insulin-dependent diabetes; requiring a psychiatrist for psychotropic medications support; ongoing counseling.

  • The following medication(s) are not permitted for legal or cultural reasons: none identified.
  • Volunteers who should avoid the following food(s) may not be able to serve: none identified. 
  • After arrival in Namibia, Peace Corps provides and applicants are required to have an annual flu shot, to take daily or weekly medication to prevent malaria, and to receive mandatory immunizations. 

Before you apply, please review Medical Information for Applicants to learn about the clearance process and other health conditions that are difficult to accommodate in Peace Corps service.


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