Although Namibia has made great strides in economic growth, serious steps need to be taken in dealing with the country’s unemployment rate, Namibia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NCCI) president, Martha Namundjebo–Tilahun says.
According to her, local enterprises need to make available tangible support to grow and create employment opportunities.
“While the economy has been growing steadily, the number of unemployed citizens, especially the youth remains stubbornly high and poverty is still at very worrying levels,” Namundjebo–Tilahun says, accusing Government of making false promises to procure goods from local businesses, especially small and medium enterprises (SMEs).
“If media reports are anything to go by, the policy of procuring from local suppliers seems to be one only spoken about in political statements but with little or no consequences for those found to be violating it. It is worrying that Government and some private companies continue to procure goods and services from outside while Namibian suppliers are being overlooked”.
This comes after Health and Social Services minister, Dr Richard Kamwi, recently announced his ministry would buy nurses’ uniforms from China; a decision which has since been met with heavy criticism and resulted in the decision being rescinded.
Namundjebo-Tilahun also says the awarding of the contract to a foreign firm would have gone against the spirit of supporting local enterprises.
But when asked whether local suppliers can actually supply quality products and meet the required quantity needs, Namundjebo-Tilahun says, “We need to train our people on how to produce quality products but then again, our local people produce the same or more quality goods than the Chinese, yet local products are still ignored.”
The Chamber, Namundjebo-Tilahun reveals, is determined to work with Government to address issues perceived as obstacles to the growth of enterprises in the country, by making the environment conducive for business growth and employment creation.
“Government also needs to agree to engage the Chamber as the cross sectoral business representative organisation in this country. Our engagement with Government cannot just be limited to the Ministry of Trade and Industry, which I must say has been a reliable partner to the private sector over the years. However, we would like to see our engagement elevated to the entire Government auspices, because the issues we should be discussing affect Government offices, ministries and agencies beyond the Trade Ministry”.
As such, the private sector has since created its own structures through which it wants to engage stakeholders as a collective unit.
“It is a very bad practice from stakeholders to work with the private sector outside the structures, which it has created. Sometimes, I get puzzled by the manner in which some consultations are made through individuals with close links to specific leaders who cannot claim representation of organised business, instead of making use of structures, such as the Chamber that represents over 3000 enterprises in this country”.
Quizzed if NCCI would take legal action against businesses, which partake in such practices, its marketing and public relations manager, Daisry Dumeni says, “We will first consult and then take legal action, if need be. At the moment, it’s not mandatory that every business makes use of the Chamber’s structures but we are working on having a law in place.”
A recent survey within the private sector has revealed discontent with the fact that NCCI has been failing in many international rankings, a situation Namundjebo-Tilahun says is being rectified. NCCI will thus implement its new five-year strategic plan after its national annual general meeting (AGM) this June.