Poor Response to Business Visit

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By Wezi Tjaronda WINDHOEK A 15-member delegation from the Engineering Export Promotion Council of India met Namibian entrepreneurs yesterday in a bid to increase trade in engineering products between the two countries. Despite long-standing ties between the two, the value of bilateral trade is still low. In 2005 for example, the value of trade between Namibia and India was US$35 million with Namibia’s exports accounting for US$20 million and India US$15 million. The special areas of interest that the delegation represented and wants to clinch business deals in are the manufacture and export of transformers, the setting up of a joint venture manufacturing plant, stainless steel household and kitchen ware, electrical products, agricultural machinery and implements, diesel engines, deep well pumps, construction machinery, automobile parts, farm implements and hand tools, among many other products. The delegation, whose African mission took them to Namibia, South Africa, Mozambique and Angola, feels that Namibia, with its good road infrastructure, business environment and political stability is better placed to do business from with other members of SACU and SADC. Yesterday, the delegation, which comprised of directors, marketing executives, export executives, proprietors and partners had one-on-one meetings with their Namibian counterparts. Unfortunately only a few Namibians turned up for the meeting, which not only disappointed the Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry, Bernhard Esau, but also the Namibian Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Esau said Namibia could drastically increase the level of its value addition to raw materials by creating beneficial relationships with Indian businesses involved in the manufacturing of engineering products which are appropriate to Namibia’s needs and conditions. Namibia’s role on the international market is largely characterized by the export of unprocessed raw materials and the importing of most of its consumables, such as toothpicks, matches, toilet rolls and many others, that can be easily manufactured. Esau said the country’s economy is also characterized by the heavy reliance on the extraction of raw materials for exports, which if processed locally could create secondary industries and jobs. “This scenario will also allow government to deliver on our responsibility of creating wealth and address the socio-economic challenges such as poverty reduction. “It is therefore critical to our business people to explore new relationships with the visiting delegation even to the extent of creating joint venture enterprises, with a view to benefit from combined synergies,” he said. Entrepreneurs in Namibia have complained about the small size of the domestic market, which they say does not allow economies of scale. But Esau said as a member of both SADC and SACU, Namibia has access to a market of 250 million people, which is an important development, as investors in Namibia would not cite the small population size as a deterrent to attracting foreign direct investment. The head of the Indian delegation, who is the Vice-President: International Business Division of International Tractors Limited, Rajiv Wahi, said India views Africa as an important growth area. “The potential is there to increase the US$35-million trade volumes,” he said, adding that India was keen to develop trade between the two countries in the shortest possible time. Wahi urged the two governments to address some of the bottlenecks such as putting up the necessary framework for businesses to operate in, to improve the flow of information through the NCCI and also to encourage exchange visits between small and medium enterprises. According to the NCCI’s Operations Manager, Charity Mwiya, some of the areas wherein Indian businesses have opportunities in Namibia are engineering and pharmaceuticals. India has more than 500 manufacturing companies, which export products to over 50 countries, making it rank among the top five of the largest global producers.