We Must Rethink Investment [opinion]

TWENTY four years after independence Namibia’s dream to overcome poverty and its associated ills has remained a dream. Theories came, theories went, with TIPEEG (Targeted Intervention Programme for Employment and Economic Growth) being one of the latest, but the dream remained in our beds.

Our paradigms have, in most if not all cases, focused on everything except on the right places. Our planners and leaders, all the way to State House, have nearly always focused on foreign investment, service and manufacturing, as well as export. Value addition has become a political parrot term, like Vision 2030. Local investment rarely features except through tenderpreneurs. The time has come for us to look at fresh economic ideas evoked by younger non-political thinkers.

One of these is Munukawaye Goffrey Kuyonisa of the Ministry of Trade and Industry. In his opinion piece in The Namibian of 16 September 2014 he expressed himself in a clear apolitical manner. His paradigm may not be perfect but if we give it our serious attention – discuss and debate it for perfection – we may escape the developmental dilemma we are in, for the paradigm shift may harbour the solution to our current perpetual economic failures.

In his article entitled “Expanding Namibia’s Production,” Kuyonisa aocates nine areas of focus – agriculture, land redistribution, housing and construction, textiles, fisheries, eco-tourism, power and water, empowerment, and skills development. If improved even just a bit, the paradigm could accommodate and help any disaantaged Namibian move out of poverty and want.

Let’s start with the first area: agriculture. As an example, in Karas, Zambezi, and Kavango interested disaantaged families can cultivate small plots along their respective water bodies and produce vegetables for the market, using only the basic tools they already have. This would naturally ensure 100% shareholding by the disaantaged Namibians. The shores and river beds of Zambezi and the Kavangos are extremely fertile, so fertilizer, as an input, would not come in.

Merchants, traders and transporters (also disaantaged) would be the next beneficiaries. Disaantaged consumers would spend less on the cheaper products and save. The national economy would save on foreign exchange and even gain if the ‘disaantaged’ producers saturate the local market. With growing income, the cash croppers would acquire better tools and bring more land under production. They would be able to lower wholesale prices and the benefits flow all the way to the consumers and the nation.

The initial action and the ensuing chain reactions would enable the ‘disaantaged’ to buy or build their own houses, pay for their children’s education and healthcare or invest in other industries such as skills development, eco-tourism, and textiles. But, for this process to start and succeed, Namibia has to overcome formidable hurdles!

Namibians of all walks of life believe that the role of the black Namibian is to provide labour to an employer. Do our government officials not woo foreign investors to come in and “provide jobs to our people”?

Trading by disaantaged Namibians would require sympathetic local authorities. Our local authorities are not particularly friendly to informal traders. Neither do they enjoy giving plots (residential or commercial) to the disaantaged people, despite the abundance of land.

Namibians, particularly the blacks, have a shortage of economic energy and ambition. An average reader of this article should already be getting tired as heshe sees the paradigm pushing responsibility to himherself.

Many Namibians are not skilled at using their money well as they set wrong priorities. In many black communities, earners don’t have peace until the money in their pocket is finished. So, they party all day and night or blow it on alcohol. This leaves no room for saving and, hence, investment or re-investment.

And then the country has eccentric ethnic, racial, and cultural socio-economic traits, some of which are detrimental to economic development. In one community, a man would keep cattle till they die of age or hunger and proudly retain their horns as trophies. He would frugally use his mahangu for years, but keep the bulk in the granary till it’s eaten up by insects.

In another tribe, the man would insist on the smaller traditional breed of livestock. But that man would remove his cattle from his grassy commercial farm to an arid communal land so that his community would see that he has them.

In terms of arable and fertile land and water, Zambezi has the best. But traditions and family feuds over land would hardly allow an ambitious family member to put land under production. It’s not uncommon for a ‘disaantaged’ family member to mow down the ambitious family member’s crops because he had no right to till that piece. This kind of behaviour forces ambitious young natives to leave the region.

Similarly, in the South of the country, the economic drive amongst the natives is lying silently in its coffin. So it is in some parts of Kunene. In the North, it is common to see individual economic energy and ambition, yet accompanied by a dearth of business skills. Businesses are still one-man shows. They die with the owner! The list goes on.

These are some of the ugly realities of our society, and without addressing them effectively, we’ll remain a land of the brave tenderpreneurs and the perpetually disaantaged, waiting only for God’s intervention.

The author is a former business promoter with the IMLT and now coordinates the social and economic sector of Nangof Trust.

Source : The Namibian