Protect, empower locals at trade fairs



The Windhoek Show Society (WSS)’s annual agriculture and trade show has become a waste of time, due to its failure to tackle South Africa and uplift SMEs in this country.
That 90% of the SMEs at this year’s show were South Africans, defeats the argument of it being a platform to market our local brands.
Whatever Namibians manufacture, South Africa sells it five times cheaper while China, 10 times cheaper. And the painful part is that of all the South African exhibitors, most of them, if not all, do not have offices in Windhoek or Namibia for that matter.  And whatever they sell; from toys, clothes, to household appliances are also made in Namibia by that woman in Ombili and that youthful guy in Katima Mulilo.
The show correctly benefits corporate Namibia and other private sector giants but does little to encourage grassroots development of SMEs. For how long has the WSS hosted trade fairs? And why haven’t we had local SMEs over the past two years?
Where is the Minister of Trade and Industry, Dr Hage Geingob? Where is Minister of Agriculture, Water and Forestry, John Mutorwa? Already, we have prices of fruits and vegetables from South African-based companies that operate in Windhoek skyrocketing due to the truck drivers’ strike in that country. Is it not a joke that we cannot grow our own vegetables since consumers are not protected against South Africa’s developments?
Perhaps, it’s time we looked at specialised trade fairs like the Canton Fairs in China and Messe Dusseldorf in Germany if our own majority of SMEs cannot participate in an event like the WSS. With the WSS, it’s like the manufacturing and agricultural sectors in Namibia were in a comatose. It’s like they didn’t even exist!  
Again, what is easier to hold - a generalised or a specialised fair such as oil/gas, textile, leather and footwear? As much as it is a complexity to run speciliased fairs, Government should chip through the relevant line ministries.
True, even if you attended a trade fair in the USA, you would find more of Chinese products because China is today’s world manufacturing warehouse. The problem with the Namibian landscape is that people come to exhibit products that are being sold by Namibians everywhere else. True, our country is more of an import-dependent nation and that is why when organising a fair, you should only show what you have. So, the fault is not on the part of the organisers alone. We must have something to exhibit.We therefore encourage fellow Namibians to use the trade fair platform to partner with foreigners to build a development-base and Government should, perhaps, put a limit on the number of foreign exhibitors or type of exhibitors.
True, if Chinese flooded the WSS, there would be a pandemonium but we keep quiet when South Africa does the same, today.
If our textile companies were working and Namibians wore made-in-Namibia clothes and shoes, you can imagine the effect this would have on our economy.
So, a trade fair should be an opportunity for people to show what they have. But if it’s South African and West African entrepreneurs coming to show our people what they have and we don’t show them what we have at small scale production, then the name ‘trade’ needs a new definition. Did anyone not tell the Pewas of this world? Have they not been coached about the importance of a fair? Where are the entrepreneurs under the Ministry of Environment and Tourism when it comes to this bigger platform?
Government should use the WSS to promote indigenous products and technologies so that we can use the trade fairs to encourage Namibians, South Africans and other foreigners to enter into partnerships that are mutually beneficial.