Indongo Laments ‘Economic Colonialism’

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By Mbatjiua Ngavirue OTJIWARONGO Namibia’s wealthiest and most successful black businessman Dr Frans Oupa Indongo has condemned the lack of progress made in sharing the wealth of the country fairly. Indongo said although Namibia has been politically independent for 16 years, this has not brought to an end what he described as “economic colonialism”. He called on young Namibians to start the struggle for economic independence. Indongo was speaking as the guest of honour at a banquet held by the Namibia Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Otjiwarongo on Friday. “The reality is that the economy is in the hands of our white compatriots who have become rich because they have the necessary skills and hold economic power in their hands,” he said. Clearly frustrated with the existing situation, Indongo said he would have expected that those who have skills would be prepared to share those skills with others. “I am not a racist, and racism is in fact something I hate,” he stressed. He however felt it is extremely disturbing that there are large companies in the country that do not give positions to skilled blacks, and only employ blacks in unskilled positions. The result is that Namibia still does not have economic independence, and that independence has only brought economic benefits to a few. Indongo deplored the fact that there is almost no protection for small and medium-sized Namibian companies against competition. He was also highly critical of foreign companies, particularly Chinese companies that receive tenders from the Namibian government but don’t leave a cent of the money they earn in Namibia. “All the money they earn from the contracts, they take out of the country. The only money they leave behind is what they pay in wages and salaries,” he charged. Chinese companies, he added, were also given contracts by the Namibian government even though they failed to pay Namibian workers acceptable wages. In the past, black-owned micro-businesses used to do thriving business at pension pay-out points, but they were now being squeezed out at pension points by Chinese traders. “The Chinese are not our enemies, or enemies of our government, but I believe some controls must be put in place. “We thank China for assisting us during our liberation struggle. But because we appreciate their contribution doesn’t mean we have to allow them to do whatever they want. There must be some regulation,” he remarked. Indongo was particularly unhappy about the role played by the Namibia Development Corporation and the Development Bank of Namibia. These, he said, were taxpayer-funded institutions and he would therefore not have expected them to use taxpayers’ money to compete against indigenously owned small businesses. He found it particularly galling that a giant South African chain such as Shoprite in some cases operates from taxpayer-funded NDC premises, seriously hurting Namibian-owned businesses.