Joe Junior is jack of all trades
To fulfil his passion of empowering the youth, Immanuel Namwandi, started Joe Junior Empire Productions (JJEP) which specialises in wielding, sewing design, jewellery design, carpentry and joinery.
He operates at the Katutura Youth resource Centre and amongst his services, he also manufactures chairs, steel doors, braai-stands, school desks bar stools.
The journey of JJEP started in 2004 with group of six members who established it as a facilitating Vocational Training & Entrepreneurship Centre.
Their aim was to develop vocational and art and craft skills and at that point focused on doing drama theatres, short films and ran communities awareness campaigns on the performing arts as well as HIV/AIDS prevention campaigns.
Realising that JJEP was not bringing any steady income, the group governing the JJEP shrinked to two people.
Thus, a restructuring of the program was needed in a way it could help its remaining members to earn an income from the program.
They managed to get funds from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs through Savitaiple Youth Organisation from Finland which also sponsored some equipment for the project which consisted of machinery for welding, sewing and joinery.
Namwandi notes that the youth organisation used to encourage tourists coming from Finland to buy the products they produced at the time.
Simultaneously, JJEP offers training courses which run for three months to unemployed youth in need of skills to start up a business or those youth with a business but need to strengthen their skills.
“The youth that are registered at JJEP do not need Grade 10, they just need to have basic spoken and written English, basically we accept the youth even with primary schooling,” he says.
Under this program, they usually have 25 students in the various areas of manufacturing offered. The best are normally retained and continue working for JJEP as technical artisans.
He adds that with that project, their aim is to reinforce manufacturing locally as most of the manufactured products are still bought from South Africa, which undermine the abilities of Namibian manufacturers.
He notes that the dependency to South Africa should stop.
Some of their orders include Special Olympics Namibian (SON) which orders desks, Franchise Namibia with chairs and desks and they are usually called to renovate desks and chairs in schools.
They also do street sales on weekends near various shops in Windhoek partly as a marketing tool as well. Other marketing tools used are radios and pamphlets.
Currently, they are getting a good response for their products and are in the process of further expansion. They have also been responding to tenders from the Ministry of Education and hope to be chosen which will insure their sustainability.
JJEP is now operating together with ‘Namibia College of Technology and Vocational Training (NCTVT)’ which is another schooling project introduced in 2009 as part of another restructure.
It offers three year courses in agriculture, welding and fabrication, auto mechanics and general electrical services.
“It is necessary to open as many training centres as possible as we have a huge number of youth who either fail or are dropout who can not get employment for lack of skills. Most of those are based in rural areas, hence cannot even travel to township to further their skills or do not even have the right information,” he says.
He adds that it is a necessity to keep empowering the youth through training programs and there should be more investment available for manufacturing.
For the future, Namwandi hopes to be able to get a bigger place where they could build a bigger workshop and centre for their training as for now they are working in the Ministry of Youth, Sport and Culture Centre in Katutura.
They have also started their registration within National Training Authority (NTA) which is expected to complete soon. “We are still looking at strengthening our sustainability in terms of funds through innovation and diversification,” he notes.