‘Import Syndrome’ Denounced

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By Surihe Gaomas WINDHOEK The Minister of Trade and Industry Immanuel Ngatjizeko says the time has come to reverse the trend of massive dumping of foreign goods into Namibia. Calling it an “unfair and an abnormal situation,” Ngatjizeko said this trend goes against the developmental policy of poverty-alleviation in the country. The dumping of foreign goods into Namibia has led to locally produced goods being denied access to supermarket shelves. “A disturbing situation has been prevailing in Namibia for some time now, whereby the local retail and distribution network is accused of deliberately avoiding locally produced goods and services in favour of imports,” said the minister when he addressed close to 30 members of the private and public sector at the Women’s Action for Development (WAD) press conference in Windhoek on Friday. The event was meant to highlight “The Importance of the Business Sector in Contributing Towards Job Creation for Local People”. Ngatjizeko noted that in the past, Namibia was a dumping ground for all kinds of products from outside, but since independence government has made great strides towards changing the situation. Yet, the situation still prevails where small local businesses find it difficult to enter the market due to the high competition from bigger foreign businesses in the country. “I have observed with serious concern that we have a wide range of products manufactured in Namibia, of high quality, but which are not available on the shelves of our supermarkets,” he said, adding the concern that such a situation goes against government’s efforts to promote development and alleviate poverty, especially for the rural communities. An example was cited as to how the rural women under WAD are struggling to make ends meet, as their goods cannot find a place on the shelves of the big chain stores throughout the country. “Our women are trying to add value to the products they make, but do not find their products on the shelves,” said Ngatjizeko, adding that this unbalanced means of trade needs to be reversed. Lately, the Ministry of Trade has been inundated with complaints with regard to the difficulty of entering local products in the local retail network. Such complaints come from manufacturers of soaps, body and hair creams and products, detergents, arts and crafts, toilet paper, garments and foodstuffs. Recently, the agriculture project at Etunda also complained about the lack of local buyers for their products, which forces them to send their produce to South Africa, from where it is re-imported at a much higher price. In an effort to promote locally made products especially for the rural poor, Executive Director of WAD Veronica de Klerk said this was an urgent “wake-up call” for the private business sector to seriously reflect on issues such as the importation of goods which could be sourced locally from poor people instead. She explained that even after 16 years of independence the “import syndrome” still plagues Namibian businesses and somehow cannot be shaken off. Talking about the present 130 000 environmentally friendly linen shopping bags produced by rural women, De Klerk urged that “the thousands of linen bank money bags all of which are presently being imported from South Africa by both Namibian and South African banks … could be allocated to Namibians, but which are instead being imported.” Such a situation, De Klerk says, stifles the developmental goals of Vision 2030, which might as well be called Vision 2130 if the trend continues. In view of this, WAD is calling upon government to intervene and “compel such businesses through legislation to join in to become part of the momentum to realise Vision 2030”. At the same occasion, Ned-bank Namibia donated a cheque of N$20 000 and Old Mutual N$10 000 to WAD’s bag making project. At the end of the event, business tycoon Harold Pupkewitz left behind a confidential document that could help WAD with bright ideas in its future endeavours.