By Petronella Sibeene WINDHOEK Namibia Manufacturing Association, in conjunction with the Bank of Namibia is collecting data to determine why locally produced goods do not enjoy the same market share as imported products. Chief Executive Officer of the Namibia Manufacturing Association Hennie Fourie confirmed in an interview with New Era last Thursday that the office of the Prime Minister recently instructed the association to come up with a strategy for expansion of the manufacturing sector in the country. The strategy will also deal with issues pertaining to negative consumer attitudes towards locally produced goods. Though he could not reveal how far the information gathering exercise has gone, he says the Bank of Namibia is busy with surveys involving certain manufacturers and some of the challenges they face daily in the industry. Studies are also being carried out following the sampling of successful manufacturers in other countries. Once this phase is complete, Fourie said, a workshop is scheduled for October 2006 where an analysis concentrating on the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) in the industry will be discussed before a strategy is formulated. Despite the sizable number of Namibians in the manufacturing industry, very few indigenous people buy local products. According to Fourie, many retail stores sell imported goods and local people have become accustomed to buying these products. “People do not necessarily know about local products. They think that imported goods are the best,” stated one source who declined to be named. Most retail stores are foreign owned and have very little interest in promoting local products. “Most shops are South African and have pamphlets to promote what they are selling. These pamphlets rarely or do not at all promote Namibian products,” the source added. The association, Fourie said, has been engaged in talks with retailers to persuade them to purchase more locally produced goods and place them in prominent places. “They (retailers) must provide an option to the people,” he noted. He feels that consumers should be made aware that Namibian products are equally of good quality and are competitively priced. The Sales Director of Plastic Packaging Jaco Vinter shared the same view with Fourie stating that knowledge is the key to entice Namibians to start consuming their own goods as they are doing with imported ones. He says “people do not know what is Namibian, we need a brand saying ‘Product of Namibia’.” In 2004, Team Namibia was launched to promote quality Namibian products under one national brand called the Naturally Namibian brand. This was further done to increase local production and create markets for Namibian products and services and in the long run create jobs. The organization markets members’ quality products under the Namibian brand and this is done by implementing a campaign geared towards changing the mindset of Namibian consumers to support locally manufactured products in order to create equal competition with imported goods. Team Namibia is also there to create more awareness of what is made in Namibia. Despite Team Namibia’s efforts, a lot still needs to be done to change the mindset of the masses regarding the consumption of Namibian products. One of the reasons why local products are not enjoying the same attention as imported South African goods, some people have argued, has to do with the economies of scale. This is achieved when a company reduces its costs and increases production normally leading to lower average production costs – which in turn can bring down the prices a company charges for its product in a market. South Africa, which is Namibia’s main importer has a large manufacturing industry with one of the alternative markets being Namibia. With the Namibian market already small, and flooded with these imported goods, Namibian manufacturers find it very difficult to achieve economies of scale to balance their costs with their income.
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