Renowned economic commentator and former Namibia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NCCI) chief executive officer, Tarah Shaanika, has expressed optimism that 2018 will be better than 2017 for business aided by the SWAPO congress results that have created an atmosphere of certainty and positive developments in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Angola.
“I think we have seen political developments that have taken place which (are) very good. We have seen legacy elections in the ruling party which were good because they have given us a greater sense of security and predictability. I think it’s going to be a much better year than the last year, as I said the certainty that has been given by the installation of a new leadership in Swapo, that alone is giving us a lot of hope for the new-year.”
“Now we know there is going to be this leadership in the next five years and during the course of the year there was a lot of uncertainty and that is very bad for business. So we were really in a dilemma, now that that issue has been sorted out it has given business and the Namibian community a greater sense of predictability and certainty,” said Shaanika.
Shaanika said onwards, economic growth has to be led by the private sector and supported by exports more than state expenditure dependency.
“We had a situation where the state was struggling to get cash to pay for services rendered. We had situations where businesses had to lay off people and some closed down. We had a lot of businesses that heavily relied on government, many of them had decreased sharply in their income and profits and that has of course affected the economy and even the growth of the economy.”
“I think in my view we needed to have that to happen because for a long time, our economy has been too dependent on the state and the state has been too dominant and still is in the economy. It is not sustainable; we cannot have growth that is led by state spending only,” he said.
He added that growth has to be spurred and reliant on exports due to the fact that Namibia is a small economy.
“We need to see a lot more of products being produced in Namibia and being exported. If you have growth that is stimulated by exports, it will be sustainable,” he said.
And although he avoided defining 2017 as going down in history as the worst business year for Namibia, he however said it was difficult for the business community.
Shaanika said the various leadership changes witnessed in Angola, South Africa and Zimbabwe are positive and Namibia stands to benefit from the opportunities which arise from these economies.
“Apart from the elections of the new leadership in the ANC in South Africa, we have also seen a change of leadership in Zimbabwe, we have seen a change of leadership in Angola. These are positive developments for the region. Not only politically but also economically.”
“We will see I think, a lot more of business opportunities created in both Zimbabwe and Angola and that is important for Namibia because a lot of our businesses are looking at these markets. As I said, we need to export more. These are some of the markets that we can look at as opportunities emerge because of the leadership change in those countries with the stability of the rand,” he said.
Shaanika deepened his affirmation of a positive 2018 opining that businesses have also learnt their lessons in 2017 and will likely diversify.
“I have seen a lot of businesses that were doing government work and are now focusing on diversification and looking at sources of revenue which do not depend on government and that is a good thing,” said Shaanika.