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Starting a business in Namibia, a hustle

by Tirivangani Masawi


Namibian and foreign investors still have to endure anything between 30 to 90 days to have their businesses up and running because of the bureaucracy at the Registrar of Companies, as well as the slow processes at municipalities and prolonged social security processes.

The prolonged duration of registering and starting a business in Namibia has created heated debate between business representatives and the Ministry of Trade and Industry.
The Namibian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NCCI) and the Namibian Business Drive (NBD) agree that Government has to clean up its act to improve the efficiency in their processing departments to speed up business registration.
NBD is a grouping of industrialists and companies aimed at promoting coordination and corporation between the business community, Government and labour.

Both NCCI Chief Executive Tara Shaanika and NBD Chief Executive Officer, Japie Vermeulen , admitted that the processes of starting a business in Namibia is unnecessarily longer as compared to other countries including Mozambique, Singapore, Zambia and South Africa.
In Namibia, if a foreign investor is to register a new business they have to engage the Registrar of Companies, get municipal clearance, get clearance from the receiver, they bemoan.
“Although we seem to be witnessing an improvement in the number of companies registered, it is still the process of registering a business and eventually operating in Namibia that takes very long.

“We feel there is need for the Government to create an autonomous board that can help in the processing of business operations and will be well constituted with both the public and private sector. This will in future help speed up the process and also create dialogue between the interested parties.” said Shaanika.
Shaanika added that consultations between Government and the business community are still in motion to have the Investment Act reviewed to cater for the loopholes that has seen potential investors (both local and international) delayed.
For Vermeulen, the problem lies in skills shortage within the public services and a growing culture of poor ethics where most of the  Government people directly involved in day to day work fail to cope with overwhelming work.
“The Minister and the top brass of certain ministers will be sweating out to have things moving but that does not necessarily mean people within the lower hierarchy will be working hard as well. We, as businesses, Government and all stakeholders need to start working towards engagement to resolve these problems. I certainly hope that will not be too late,” said Vermeulen.

The Namibian business landscape has to create a comprehensive exit plan for the foreign investors to deal with the cloud of uncertainty about the future from the short term permits offered by the Namibian immigration office, Vermeulen added.
“The Government will always be sitting with a problem of massive capital externalization. Currently, we do not have structures that promote reinvestment by foreign investors so millions will continue finding their way out of the country until such a time when we improve our business registration criteria and also engage with foreign investors.”
The Registrar of Companies, close corporation, patent and trade marks and industrial designs in the Ministry of Trade and Industry, Tileinge Andima admitted that his office is operating under some difficult conditions that have derailed pace and progress in the processing of company registrations.
“We are currently 14 in this department and we are overwhelmed by work. At one point we receive close to 60 applications a day from agents alone without including individuals and you can imagine how difficult it will be on manual work. We have been looking at possibilities of digitalizing but till now we do not have a time frame of when we will have that in place,” said Andima.
The Villager understands that the proposed amendment to the Investment Act will soon be tabled in Parliament with drastic adjustments to speed up the registration and operation of the Registrar of Companies.
According to Andima, Cabinet has agreed in principle to create an autonomous body called the Business and Intellectual Property Authority (BIPA) to complement the operations of the Registrar of Companies.

 “People should also understand that we do not have control on processes within the home affairs, customs officials and the municipality but all we can do is wait for all those offices to do their part before we are involved but in the end the blame comes to us,” said Andima.

The registrar concedes that the current Investment Act also disadvantage investors as it has some unclear clauses which do not differentiate between the foreign and the local investors.
He bemoans tenderprenuership, those who only think of starting a business when they smell an opportunity to grab a tender and in the end they take their frustrations at the laid process in the Ministry of Trade.