By Frederick Philander WINDHOEK Those in charge of creating economic policies should strive to encourage innovation and risk-taking by entrepreneurs, which are vital to economic growth and consequently to higher living standards. This was said on Saturday evening by Ebson Uanguta, acting director of research at the Bank of Namibia. He was the keynote speaker at the tenth anniversary of the J & P Group, owned by a family of previously disadvantaged members of the Namibian society and managed by well-known businessman, John Akapandi Endjala, and his wife, Penny. “A society that does not honour entrepreneurial accomplishment will find fewer able people engaged in wealth-creation. History has shown that economies that appreciate the benefits created by entrepreneurs flourish, notably the US economy, in which about 70 percent of adults prefer being an entrepreneur instead of working for someone else,” Uanguta said at the event, which focused on the role of entrepreneurship in the Namibian economy. He estimated that Africa has a 41 percent ratio of adults wanting to become entrepreneurs, posing a serious challenge for the development of the continent. “Generally, we admire and appreciate people who venture forth to try something new and end up creating social benefits to a host of other people rather than just an individual. These qualities describe the essence of entrepreneurship, a person who asserts that there is a better way, which he will find, charging down a new path, staying alert and taking risks to seize opportunities,” Uanguta urged. According to Uanguta, entrepreneurs and small- and medium-sized enterprises have emerged as the engine of economic and social development throughout Namibia. “The role of entrepreneurship has evolved significantly and is now seen as a requisite ingredient in our economy-generating employment, growth and social development. Therefore, the ambition, determination and ingenuity of these men and women, who take on the challenge of starting and building competitive businesses, should be greatly acknowledged and appreciated by all,” he said of the SME sector that presently provides 20 percent of the country’s labour force and contributes 12 percent to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). For countries such as ours we need concerted efforts between the public and private sectors to create and harness the entrepreneurship culture, he said. “Without creating that culture, attempts to address the challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequality with some measure of success will remain a pipe dream. We have to turn to and actively encourage and promote entrepreneurial ventures in our country. Furthermore, embracing international trade is key to Namibia’s continued expansionary economic performance. In this regard the small domestic market size had been naturally overcome, but the export markets are critical for future Namibian businesses and ultimate economic growth,” he cautioned. Among the invited guests were Minister of Education, Nangolo Mbumba, and retired politician, Andimba Toivo ya Toivo. The biggest stumbling block for entrepreneurship in Namibia is not only a lack of access to credit or the availability of seed money to start a business, but a lack of skills, new ideas and an entrepreneurship culture. “Thus, the creation of such a culture is vital for the survival and the sustaining of the growth of our economy. In this regard, education and training have a key role to play in creating positive attitudes towards entrepreneurship and providing adequate managerial skills,” he said in commending the government for the introduction of its ETSIP programme and the credit guarantee scheme for SMEs. In conclusion, Uanguta praised the J & P Group’s entrepreneurial role model as a national achievement. In a short message, John Endjala, president of the Indigenous People Business Forum, vice-president of the NCCI and a member of the Presidential Economic Advisory Council, thanked and acknowledged the dedicated services – more than 10 years – of four of his full-time staff of 19 workers.