By Kuvee Kangueehi GOBABIS Small towns across the country can only retain their best-educated people by creating viable vehicles of economic growth within their localities, says Deputy Trade and Industry Minister, Bernhardt Esau. Esau, who made the remarks on Tuesday morning when he officially opened a two-day Local Economic Development (LED) Consultative Conference at Gobabis, said it was vital that small towns slow down the outflow of best-educated persons to major urban cities such as Windhoek, Walvis Bay, Swakopmund and Oshakati. “It is of paramount importance that the aim of this conference, namely the promotion of trade and economic development at local level through appropriate partnerships, can only become a reality when economic decentralization is effected in terms of infrastructure development to tap the full potential of the rural and peripheral areas of the country,” he stated. The former trade union leader noted that government has taken note of decentralization and built infrastructure such as the Trans-Kalahari Highway. “The Namibian government has added its weight to build infrastructure such as the Trans-Kalahari Highway that goes through the Omaheke region to markets in Botswana, South Africa and Mozambique,” he said. He added that his ministry has built extensive infrastructure all over the country in the form of SME modules and industrial parks to stimulate economic development within the regions. The deputy minister challenged the residents of the different regions to make full use of these facilities. “It is now up to the regions and the private sector to promote and utilize this infrastructure for economic activities which will create employment and contribute to the growth of the Namibian economy,” said Esau. He noted that many areas in Namibia are endowed with natural resources such as diamonds, uranium, tourism attractions and others, which can be transformed into economic assets. “We are aware that Omaheke Region presents an ample opportunity for value addition within the beef industry and I hope that this conference will identify many existing opportunities in Gobabis and the surrounding areas as well as strategies on how these could be exploited for the benefit of the people.” In his final remarks, the deputy minister said it is only through these coordinated efforts that Namibia can successfully address such burning socio-economic issues as massive unemployment, rising crime, teenage pregnancies, increasing homelessness and others faced by not only the town of Gobabis but the entire country. “I hope that this conference will offer invaluable lessons for the overall economic development, progress and prosperity of the Namibian nation.” Governor of the Omaheke Region Laura McLeod said the LED conference spearheaded by the Municipality of Gobabis was indeed a milestone in the history of local governance in the Omaheke Region as it has brought together various members of the Local Authority Development Communities from across Namibia to exchange ideas and experiences on issues pertaining to LED. “The LED cannot be achieved in isolation but calls for interventions such as this conference, whereby strategic role players and stakeholders in development can share information that relates to their common mission of improving the quality of life of the people they serve.” The governor said the Local Economic Development is a crucial part of development for any village, town, region and country. “If properly planned, it will harness development which can spearhead activities that can drive economies whether local or national.” The host of the conference and Mayor of the Town of Gobabis Platini Katjaoha gave a brief background on why the municipality decided to convene the conference. He said as a municipality, they have critically assessed the pace of economic development at the town. “The municipality looked to the living standards of our people compared to the annual increase of unemployment in our town, more especially among the youth and the influx in the town.” He said the municipality also realized that it is not only Gobabis that faces the problem and decided to invite other smaller towns. Chief executive officers of various smaller towns in the country as well as local business people and business experts attended and made presentations at the two-day conference. The conference ended yesterday.
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