Business Booms at Border Post

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By Surihe Gaomas and Anna Ingwafa OSHIKANGO A big rush of people across the Namibia/Angola border through Oshikango is in full swing as the Ondjiva Trade Fair kicks off in Angola. There is a massive business boom in northern Namibia as masses of people cross over the border either way. Men, women, the elderly and children alike travel in their hundreds with huge parcels of almost anything they can lay their hands on. For them, Oshikango means business – the business of buying and selling on the other side of the border. “It’s all about making money, because we want to survive,” said one regular Angolan traveller as he loaded six bags of 10-kg potatoes onto his bicycle. Just as he was about to leave, a couple of women with huge boxes on their heads made their way across the border checkpoint while others moved around freely. Although specific statistics could not be obtained about the number of people moving in and out of the country, it is estimated that about 20 people per minute make their way through the border point. When the New Era news team visited the checkpoint yesterday, Namibians and Angolans were observed using bicycles as “taxis” to move much-needed goods across the border. However, transport is not only limited to bicycles but even self-made motorbikes, while people literally carry beds and mattresses by hand. “I go Ondjiva, tings are dere,” said a middle aged Portuguese-speaking woman in rudimentary English before rushing off with plastic bags of maize-meal, oranges, sugar, biscuits and candles. Asked where he got a bundle of Angolan Kwanzas from, one Namibia resident pointed across the Angolan border saying there is a “black market in Santa Clara”, a town just a few footsteps away on the other side. The man explained that there are many young people with handfuls of Angolan cash stashed in their pockets as they target visitors to provide foreign exchange. It is reported that 11 Kwanzas is equal to one Namibian dollar. So how does one get the correct daily financial exchange rates? “Well, there is an office across the border that write every day on the notice what the rates are,” he explained. Oshikango is situated 60 km from Ondangwa in the Ohangwena Region and is used as a transit point for the business of Export Processing Zones. The town looks busy and on the move. At times, people hardly talk to each other as they concentrate on making money. However, due to the congestion of people and traffic coming into the town, heaps of litter have crowded the border town. Despite the dirty looks of the town, Namibian business people are happy with the good business that comes from their Angolan neighbours who come to buy goods which they in turn sell on the other side. “People just buy juice on this side and immediately after they close the border, they immediately start to re-sell again,” said a businessman who runs a grocery shop nearby. Ondjiva is located 41 km from Oshikango border post and many Angolans travel there by taxi. “Now that Ondjiva Trade fair is in full swing, business looks promising for me,” said another local entrepreneur. Police officials confirmed that business always takes place at the border town. But the Ondjiva trade fair gives more impetus to retail business. The trade fair started on July 15.