Lüderitz Town Council chief executive officer (CEO), Aunue Gebhard, has asserted only through stronger collaboration from various stakeholders, complemented by infrastructure development, can the town become a gem worth investing in.
In an exclusive interview with The Villager, Gebhard noted the just-ended Crayfish Festival has become a highlight of the town, especially because it is aimed at promoting the socio-economic development of Lüderitz.
For the seventh consecutive year, the town celebrated its history, sea-life and multi-cultural uniqueness, bringing together the local populace from across Namibia through its Crayfish Festival themed ‘Celebrating Crayfish in Diversity’.
The event, which is the council’s brainchild, has grown into an operational event comprising a group of trustees and sponsors. At inception, the festival only had 23 exhibitors.
With a budget of about N$1.5m, this year’s festival had about 89 exhibitors including small and medium entreprise (SMEs), private and public sectors and corporate Namibia, to interact with consumers and introduce new products and services.
And with a growing interest in the event, the town council realised it could no longer organise it on its own, hence outsourced for event organisation in S&T Event and Promotion this year.
A subsidiary of S&T Trading, S&T Event and Promotion was the winner of a tender earlier flighted by the town council, having initially received six bidders.
S&T executive director, Stanley Thomas, said; “The council realised it did not have the capacity to organise as big an event as it wished to on its own; so we were chosen to run it. However, as the event is usually organised by only its community, it was not easy for them to accept the change and transition of the event organisation, to an outsider, as we are not from Lüderitz.”
Nevertheless, S&T Event and Promotion involved the community in the organisation process, because it is the community’s product and “we want them to keep taking ownership. Most services that could be sourced locally, such as cleaning, were given to the local community while the remaining had to be outsourced. These included putting up tents, sound systems and other logistics”.
The other challenge was accommodation. “Most dignitaries we had invited to attend the opening ceremony had to cancel, because they could not find accommodation”.
Despite all the challenges, S&T Event and Promotion believed it delivered and hence await on the survey it runs through exhibitors who point out “where they feel we should improve on”.
Of the 89 exhibitors, 60% were local SMEs while 35% were corporate, public and private sector players who added value to the town. The rest of the exhibitors were SMEs from other towns.
To encourage locals to exhibit, the town council charged only N$500 participatory fees while exhibitors from other towns were charged N$1500. This, Thomas said, lured in more Lüderitz-based exhibitors.
One of the local exhibitors, owner of Shearwater Oyster Farm, could not hide his satisfaction about the staged event, noting he the good revenue he got from the Oyster sales at the event. With a double outturn, his team made about N$4000 daily at the festival.
“We received positive feedback about our product, which is locally farmed”.
Given Lüderitz’s geographical position, placing it near South Africa and its harbours, Gebhard further noted the town has the potential of becoming the transport and logistics hub of the country.
Despite potential opportunities within the town, Gebhard said certain challenges, such as improper infrastructure and the distance between Lüderitz and other towns still puts a strain on its development, as investors shy away.
“Once the rehabilitation of the railway line is completed, it will surely make access to Lüderitz easier. Then, Lüderitz will be able to attract a number of investors, to develop it,” Gebhard said.
While the town’s harbour was upgraded in 1998, it was decided to rehabilitate the railway to make full use of the facilities at the harbour. The harbour and railway line will help develop the southern part of Namibia.
It is also intended to distribute petroleum products to the southern regions of Namibia, through the Lüderitz harbour and upgraded railway line.
Not only will the functionality of the railway line attract investors but it will also further develop the town’s tourism.
Namibia Tourism Board (NTB) communications officer, Maggy Mbako, noted the town is already known for its touristic attractions and thus receives a good number of visitors. However, it could do better, if more investments were made in the various areas related to tourism.
These could include the reopening of the town’s information centre, which was once used to provide information to tourists but has been since closed down. Also an increase in the number of boats involved in the boat cruise in Lüderitz would help boost the town’s socio-economic development, as it has proven to be one of the favourite activities undertaken by tourists.
Going forward, the town’s CEO could only predict an even bigger festival in the next edition. This could be achieved through deeper consultations and various stakeholder partnerships, to make the Crayfish Festival a continual success.