Namibia Must Get in Gear

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By Wezi Tjaronda WINDHOEK Namibia is weak in both productivity and competitiveness – two priorities for any successful business. In the absence of these key elements, Fisheries and Marine Resources Minister Dr Abraham Iyambo says export industries lose revenue and thus affect the incomes of countries negatively. Iyambo said the government as well as industries should rethink the issues of productivity and competitiveness to be able to meet global expectations considering the ever-changing business environment. He said industries and individual businesses should reappraise their situation and not dwell in obsolete practices. Iyambo said this at the opening of the Namibia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NCCI) Annual General Meeting on Saturday. He said Namibia as a small country with a small economy needs to work harder and faster in improving its competitiveness and productivity. “The smaller our economy remains, the more volatile, susceptible, brittle and precarious it becomes to internal and external shocks, we have to work harder and run faster”, he said adding that Namibia should consider establishing a Productivity Council in order to stimulate productivity in the country. Productivity is the efficiency at which products are made and the measure of how capital and labour are used to deliver, while competitiveness refers to the degree to which an entity can produce goods and deliver services, which meet both national and international markets. He said while competitiveness entails companies to follow its products right from the origin through the stages of production to the end user, he was not convinced that Namibia was aggressively following this approach because to achieve optimal competitiveness, all parts of the value chain must be competitive. Giving an example of fishing and offshore mining, Iyambo said the two needed to look at their fleet size, technology, age of vessels and work force in order to perform and be competitive. “A fleet consisting of ancient and fuel inefficient vessels with outdated technology will be a liability, especially in our time of exorbitant oil prices,” Iyambo said. Oil prices have hit an all time high, which Iyambo said at US$ 70 per barrel, was “an assassin of the fishing industry.” For the Namibian fishing industry to be competitive, the country needs to look at alternative sources of energy such as bio-diesel. Another way in which the country could improve its competitiveness, as far as this industry is concerned, is to have good ports with adequate facilities. “If a vessel has to steam empty to another far away port in order to do repairs this will reduce active fishing and mining time, and consequently the economic performance of the vessels”, he added. To improve the productivity of the country, Iyambo suggested that institutions start rewarding their staff based on how productive they are and not just because they are employed. “I am of the view that trade union representatives and businesses should look at adopting and adapting productivity, profitability and incentive wage models,” said the Fisheries Ministers. Other ways in which Namibia could improve its competitiveness are through knowledge of its export markets, prices, conditions and product type, skills development especially in areas of IT, accounting, engineering, mathematics and biosciences among others, through promotion of manufacturing and value addition, a good relationship among government, trade unions and employees and also an enabling environment for businesses to operate.