Namibia Chamber of Commerce and Industry Chief Executive Officer Tarah Shaanika this week blew the whistle on Government’s procurement policy, which he believes is skewed towards foreign companies at the expense of local entrepreneurs.
According to Shaanika such a setup has potential to kill the job market as the local companies are not being given equal time to grow at the same rate with their international competitors.
He goes on to argue that the move to award big projects to foreigners is tantamount to allowing heavy capital flight and sacrificing local development.
Perhaps he has a point there but where do we draw the line between balancing the need for foreign investment and creating opportunities for the local companies. It should be understood that the issue is a typical double-edged sword and needs to be looked at with utmost care.
Governments by nature are not associated with creating employment but rather should create an enabling environment that allows both local and foreign investors to blossom. The Government needs to enact laws that attract investors and also allow for a favourable environment to do business in for all investors.
It then becomes the role of the various industry role players to make sure that they take advantage of the environment to grow and position themselves with the relevant skills to tackle any jobs that come from Government.
We have a feeling that the NCCI in their calls for the Government to prioritise local companies when giving tenders is somewhat missing the point and the issue here is that NCCI members and business in general should not be found wanting when big tenders are released.
If we take for example all the bigger projects that Government has given in the past three years, including the nerckatal dam project or the expansion of the Walvis Bay Port, we would not have any local company with capacity to execute these projects.
There is a severe shortage of technical capacity when it comes to local companies executing some of the jobs that are given by government. That being the case it does not stop locals from conjuring up joint ventures with foreign companies where they can easily gain the skills needed for the future, not to mention the capital flow that will see them benefiting in future.
It is also imperative that we understand that the Government has done a tremendous job in making Namibia an attractive destination for investors, hence we will expect more and more foreign companies to keep coming so local entrepreneurs cannot become cry-babies forever, rather they must work on improving themselves instead of demanding industry protection.
It is also unfortunate that some of the bigger international companies take projects with concessionary loans which is somewhat an advantage for government as they are guaranteed of project execution. There are some local companies that have also not made life easier when they get lucrative tenders and fail to deliver.
This has cast a shadow of doubt on many other local companies with potential and ability to deliver their targets in time.
NCCI in this case should be more consumed with delivery and taking full advantage of the available opportunities in the country instead of blaming foreign investors for failure to meet their targets.