Government is going to spend over N$1.8b on the construction of sites and premises for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in the first half of 2012.
The project is further set to provide over 12 000 jobs approximately 50% of which will be during the construction phase alone and the other 50% during the operation of business phase, if documents in the possession of The Villager are anything to go by.
The project will see the construction of community markets and industrial estates in the Oshikoto, Oshana, Ohangwena and Omusati regions in the North as well as the Hardap and Karas regions in the South.
Community markets and industrial estates are also earmarked for the Khomas, Erongo and Kunene, Caprivi as well as the Otjozondjupa regions.
This is part of numerous Government-funded ventures, which are administered by the Namibia Development Corporation (NDC).
Government maintains that these projects have a vital role to play in developing the SME sector efficiently and effectively by means of setting appropriate policies and programmes, availing land for development of businesses, creating and enabling infrastructure for lease at affordable rental rates as well as setting the best practice model for SMEs to flourish, with key outputs in the form of job creation and economic growth.
The local SME sector welcomed the project as a move in the right direction.
First National Bank of Namibia’s Head for the SME Branch, Robert Eiman said that access to capital is still a thorny issue for emerging SMEs commercial banks and Government still regards this sector as essential to the growth of the local economy.
He also maintained that globally, the SME sector is the biggest employer and with Government’s intervention, the same can happen for Namibia.
“We have a high unemployment rate and this could be one of the reasons why Government has decided to intervene with such commitment. Government wants to encourage job creation and with these projects, jobs are going to be created,” Eiman said.
“This move has been long overdue and Government should be applauded,” said director of a local SME training and capacity building firm for emerging businesses, SMEs Compete, Danny Meyer.
According to Meyer, while the contribution of local SMEs to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is not as major as that of SMEs in Asian countries, the contribution that local small businesses has on the local economy is significant enough and can improve with the necessary support.
“The SME sector in the informal business sector should be harnessed and nurtured. That’s the only way they can graduate to the formal sector,” Meyer said.
Meyer added that access to finance is not the only need that local SMEs have since access to work spaces can be equal or even more imperative to their success.
Projects with the highest projected budgets are the Walvis Bay Industrial Estate in the Erongo Region and the Oshakati Trade and Industrial Estate both of which are set at a projected cost of N$300m each.
Erongo Regional Governor, Cleophas Mutjavikua also hailed the move, “SME development in the past was never co-ordinated in markets and as a result, numerous local SMEs are still undercover and only serve a small portion of the entire market size mostly within their local communities.”
He cited as an example a Walvis Bay woman who has discovered a unique recipe for baking bread but is only known to her neighbours, as well as a donkey cart manufacturer also from Walvis Bay who still remains relatively unknown.
“With the construction of these markets and trade estates, local SMEs will get the much needed exposure and this will in turn promote the livelihoods of those who are benefiting from the opening jobs. The establishment of community markets could also yield positive spin-offs for the tourism sector,” Mutjavikua said.
Tenders for the construction of the first phase of the Walvis Bay Industrial Estate were called in September this year and construction work on the site is scheduled to commence by mid January 2012.
The estate, which will employ 1 200 people during the construction phase and provide approximately 1 000 jobs upon commencement of business, has been earmarked as a logistical and manufacturing node with downstream businesses such as welding, packaging and others.
An additional 1 000 downstream jobs are also envisioned as a result of this project.
Also in the Erongo Region, the Omaruru Trade and Industrial Estate, which is set to occupy approximately 16ha of land, strategically sited at the entrance of Omaruru town from Karibib is set to provide 980 jobs when construction commences in May 2012 and 375 during operation. The project is set to cost Government some N$140.6m.
In contrast, the Oshana Trade and Industrial Estate, which is also a N$300m worth project’s employment capacity is low with only 153 people during the construction phase and 390 projected jobs upon commencement of business; the plan of this estate is much smaller.
This estate, which will also be referred to as the Omugongo Lifestyle Estate is the only investment from this venture in that region.
The construction of the Windhoek Garment Factory, which will be the only project to be constructed in the Khomas Region, is currently underway in the Northern Industrial area situated close to the Namibian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) offices and the completion date for the factory is set for 10 March 2012.
Land for this project was acquired from the City of Windhoek at a cost of N$4 245 400. The projected MTI investment in the project is N$28m according to the documents.
Projected MTI investments on community markets in the Karas and Hardap regions through this venture will amount to N$61m, providing about 900 jobs in the region.
This entails the construction of the Keetmashoop Community Market, the Karasburg and Noordoewer Community Markets, as well as community markets in Gainachas, Berseba, Gibeon and Gochas respectively.
Oshikoto Region stands to benefit the most with the construction of five community markets. The community centres will be erected in Tsumeb, Oshivelo, Onathinge and Onayena as well at Onethindi.
The project will also see the construction of a Trade and Industrial Estate in Tsumeb and the extension of the SME Park in Omuthiya, also in the Oshikoto Region.
Two of the four projects in the Otjozondjupa Region will be located in Okahandja. These are the Okahandja Craft Market and the Okahandja Business Estate projected costs of N$13m and N$150m respectively.
The Okahandja Town Council and the project developers concurred that the craft market, which has been in operation for years, will retain its current locality as it was the choice of the beneficiaries in their quest to maintain their historic market.
An SME Park is earmarked for Grootfontein while Kalkfeld residents should brace themselves for a community market by May next year.
Namibia has a total of 13 regions and through this intervention by Government, community markets will be constructed; 12 regions with the exception of the Omaheke Region in the east of Namibia.