Language Barrier Impinges On Trade

Language and cultural differences remain among the biggest challenge facing both Namibian and Chinese business people interested in bilateral trade.

China is Namibia’s sixth largest export market and exports from Namibia to China grew from N$939 million in 2011 to N$1.2 billion and N$1.4 billion in 2012 and 2014 respectively.

The Husab mine in which Chinese investors have a large stake is the largest Chinese investment on the African continent. It will generate N$1.7 billion to the Namibian economy and create 2 000 jobs.

Namibia’s major exports to China are uranium ore and concentrates, unrefined copper and copper anodes, non-industrial diamonds, oysters, rock lobsters and sea urchins.

“Business communities in Namibia and China have been confronted with both the language barrier and cultural differences at some point, leading not only to misunderstandings, but also to a negative impact on business deals,” said Ambassador Ringo Abed who is Namibia’s Ambassador to the People’s Republic of China.

The Ambassador and his staff in Beijing are trying to tackle this barrier by producing bilingual documents to enable Chinese investors to have a better understanding of Namibian laws and culture.

“These differences have been challenging but are not insurmountable as proved by the increasing business relations between entrepreneurs from both countries,” said Ambassador Abed on Monday upon inquiry by New Era.

On the negative perceptions being created by a few Chinese business people paying low wages to their Namibian workers he said: “What we tell these people (Chinese investors) is to respect the laws of our country.

“We tell them to come to our country on our own terms and that they must respect our laws like we also have to respect their laws.”

He elaborated on his statement saying when there is one “rotten apple” in a basket it does not mean all the apples in that particular basket are rotten and this also happens in families where one child could be naughty but the parents of such a child will not disown him or her but find a way to put such a child on the upright path of righteousness.

The Ambassador said the Chinese government has given Namibia and other African countries grants without any strings attached unlike most countries from the west whose grants come with a raft of conditions attached to such aid.

On the question of what the two countries are doing to quell perceptions about inferior quality Chinese goods, he said: “Personally I do not think that all Chinese goods sold in Namibia are of inferior quality. It might be that some of the Chinese goods sold might not satisfy everyone’s expectations, but be that as it may, many Chinese companies produce high quality goods.”

He added that the Namibian government has been encouraging Namibian entrepreneurs to visit China to establish direct contacts with Chinese companies “that produce and export high quality goods”.

“Business delegations from Namibia regularly attend trade fairs in China, such as the China International Fair for Investment and Trade (CIFIT) and the Canton Fair where they meet their Chinese counterparts and can inspect the quality of goods on offer,” stressed the Ambassador.

On bilateral and political ties between the two countries, he said “the two countries enjoy excellent relations dating back to the years of Namibia’s liberation struggle when China selflessly assisted SWAPO in the quest for total emancipation and freedom from colonial oppression.”

Source : New Era