By: Nghiinomenwa Erastus
For the past 22 quarters of the economy, the construction sector has only grown positively three times.
This has prompted the Construction Industry Federation (CIF) and the Metal and Allied Workers Union (MANWU) to collaborate on matters of mutual interest.
They are focusing on the revival of the local construction industry and employment in the sector. The two organisations were announced on Thursday.
For the second quarter of 2021, the construction sector has only contributed N$461 million to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
This is the worst quarterly performance for the sector in nine years.
The last time it performed this poorly was in the second quarter of 2018, when its activities were equivalent to N$584 million, the Namibia Statistics Agency quarterly data shows.
The statement highlighted that the two parties, representing both the employers and employees, signed an MoU due to the precarious nature of the construction sector in Namibia.
CIF general manager Bärbel Kirchner explained that they had recognised the repercussions of the sector downturn, which led to many closures and downsizing of businesses in the sector.
“The majority of construction businesses are operating at a loss, and owners or shareholders have to cut cost and rely on personal finance, overdrafts and loans to ensure the continuity of their business, to the extent that it is still possible,” she said.
Moreover, the sector has experienced large-scale retrenchment since the start of the recession in 2016.
Kirchner added that it is for this reason that the CIF and MANWU decided to formalise their collaboration and coordination of their action to raise awareness of the sector participants.
The employers’ federation and the union have decided to embark on joint advocacy efforts to continue to work towards optimal development of the construction sector.
The advocacy is to create space for small-to-medium-sized enterprises, emerging contractors, and large-sized contractors to operate profitably in the Namibian construction sector.
Moreover, they will jointly advocate for establishing a national construction council that will ensure the registration and categorisation of all businesses in the construction sector.
The statement has also highlighted it will be beneficial to the sector to see that procurement practices will secure optimal engagement of Namibian-owned businesses and the employment of Namibian workers.
The objective of the collaboration is also to create awareness of tenderpreneurs and highlight the legal loopholes that continue to create opportunities for ‘agents’ without creating any additional value.
Some of the joint advocacy efforts will include seeking an audience with the top echelons of politicians to share the concerns both the employers and the employees have with the highest level of government.
In addition, to reach a diversity of stakeholders, joint seminars to cover relevant issues that affect the industry will be done.
These include the state of the construction sector and possible solutions, the importance of regulation of the construction sector, the creation of decent and sustainable jobs through the construction sector.
Furthermore, to highlight the importance of establishing procurement thresholds, categories and criteria in the construction sector; and consider the sizing of projects to secure the optimal engagement of Namibian capacity.
Kirchner added that “we need to recognise that our proposed changes can have a massive impact and positively affect the growth in our industry and ultimately its contribution to the Namibian economy”.
Justina Jonas-Emvula, secretary-general of MANWU, said the construction sector is united for a good cause.
“We have an obligation to ensure that our sector continues to provide decent jobs, which a sustainable procurement system can support to benefit Namibians,” Jonas-Emvula stated.