There are a number of positive developments happening in “the land of the brave”. First, Namibia has been shortlisted as a potential host for the 2013 Adventure Travel World Summit. Both Swakopmund and Windhoek will host some activities if Namibia becomes successful in its bid. I am sure that all Namibians are excited about the prospects of being the host to more than 600 tour operators across the globe. Second, the majority of Namibians including the unemployed own Cell phones which enable them to communicate with the rest of the world through emails, facebook, tweeter, or access to news through their gadgets in order to stay current with the latest happenings across the globe .
And third, the NBC are preparing to migrate from analogue to digital television broadcast as this presents greater benefits including the delivery of multiple TV channels and therefore reaching more people with diverse needs. If this happened next year, Namibia will join the few countries in Africa that have moved to digitization. These are all examples of a forward looking nation.
Despite all these positive developments, there are also a number of negative aspects that needs changing. And these would be better changed sooner rather than later. One such aspect that I particularly would like to address in this article has to do with the quality of night life in the central business district (CBD) of our towns and capital city. It is a fact that Windhoek and other major towns in Namibia are buzzing with business activities during the day but unfortunately all that come to a complete halt at 05h30 as this is the official time that most shops close for businesses except for a few supermarkets. If you don’t believe me, go to the CBD in Windhoek at ten o’clock during week days, it’s almost deserted and one would be scared to walk down Independence Avenue even when we know that City Police are monitoring the area with the help of sophisticated CCTV cameras.
This situation gets better over the weekend as there are visible movements in the CBD until around eleven o’clock when it begins to clear out and by 01h00 am, you will not spot a soul walking the street in the CBD. The trend is almost similar if not worse when it comes to most Namibian towns from Luderitz to Walvis Bay, from Katima to Gobabis, from Rundu to Ongwediva, and from Oshakati to Swakopmund.
This phenomenon leads to the following question asked by most visitors who comes for the first time to the “Land of the Brave” and that question is “where are all the people?”
For Namibians, this is a strange question because we know where to find most of the people. It’s on Evelyn Street and Herero mall in Windhoek’s Katutura or at the shebeens in Sauyemwa (Rundu) Tseblagte (Keetmanshoop), Oneshila (Oshakati), Mondesa (Swakopmund), Onhtimbu (Outapi) etc.
Again, nothing wrong with the places where the majority of people find themselves during weekdays or weekends except the fact that such a situation deprives our CBDs of endless opportunities. While it make sense for most people to entertain themselves closer to where they live especially when one does not own a vehicle to move easily from point A to B, the result leads to underutilized CBDs for about eight hours starting at 10h00 PM to 06h00 AM.
In other cities such as Cape Town, Cairo, Dakar etc., these are the times when the CBD are buzzing with people at restaurants, live performance venue that are child friendly in addition to pubs and night clubs for adults. It’s therefore important to have a CBD that provides for the needs of diverse groups including children, families, couples, tourists, etc. Such activities can help families and couples to bond as they spend more time together outside their homes. At the moment, most parents in Namibia tend to leave their children to figure out how to entertain themselves and this could lead the youth to experiment with alcohol and sex.
In terms of late night adult entertainments, many Namibians who have travelled to other cities will tell you of their experiences where they had to come straight from the club on a Tuesday morning to pick up their baggage and head to the airport. In most Namibian towns, you cannot find a night club that is open every night unless its weekend. When you actually find one, it will be full of young people as young as 15 years old or the pub/club will be just a plain boring place especially for those who do not drink alcohol.
Now, here are some changes that we could consider in order to maximize the use of our CBDs.
First, local authorities as well as property developers/land lords need to think strategically and provide incentives to existing businesses operating in the CBD areas and also make it easier for new business to relocate to the CBDs. A good example is when the Windhoek local authority and a property developer collaborated to bring affordable housing through the construction of upmarket flats in the CBD area just across the municipal head quarter. This development surprised everyone including the developer as most of the units were sold out within two weeks while the project is only expected to be completed in 2013/14.
Such development offers benefits to the owners and tenants who will live in the flats as they are closer to their workplace and other amenities such as restaurant, gym etc. Apart from the housing shortage, people especially young professionals are more interested in lifestyle accommodation with added benefits as highlighted above. Although Windhoek, Swakopmund, Walvis Bay and perhaps other towns have been doing this over the years, there is a need to implement it as part of the broader strategic plan. Ultimately, the outcome of the CBD development will improve business opportunities for aspiring entrepreneurs to invest in restaurants, theatres, galleries, pubs and night clubs.
Second, there is a need to invest in businesses that cater for diverse needs especially families, couples, children and the youth as it can promote healthy lifestyle by reducing excessive alcohol use, early sexual debut among the youth, and decrease multiple partnerships which all fuel the HIV epidemic.
In conclusion, Namibia is known to attract tourist from across the globe as they want to explore our magnificent safari experience at the world renown Etosha Park, the magnificent fish river canyon, the beautiful coastal areas, the scenic Damaraland, the evergreen lodges over the Okavango and Caprivi etc.
However, some African countries are now beginning to move towards a mix model where they promote both the safari adventure and urban tourism, and Namibia should consider doing the same. The rational for the mix model is to ensure that tourists begin to spend time and money in urban centres because of the attractive entertainments offered by the towns or city which include live music performances, theatre performances, restaurants, pubs and clubs, visits to historic sites and galleries etc. Ultimately, such move will also ignite growth for the local economies as tourist will stay longer in urban centres to explore and experience the local entertainment culture.