By Charles Tjatindi
Namibia has a serious deficit of skilled and specialised workers, especially in technical fields, which could hamper the attainment of the country’s developmental initiatives.
This is the collective view of many business owners at Walvis Bay, who met President Hifikepunye Pohamba last week for an information-sharing session.
Many representatives of major private sector enterprises present at the gathering told Pohamba that the lack of skilled workers has cost them a lot of business, and as a result could subsequently slow the country’s attainment of its National Development Plans and Vision 2030.
The businesspeople noted that they are mostly forced to import skilled labour into the country at the expense of Namibians, which is not only costly, but a time-consuming process.
“We really need skilled staff, especially in the technical fields. We need those blue-collar workers as opposed to the white-collar staff.
“When you place an advertisement for a position you get piles of applications of which only two percent has the potential to be trained for the job,” noted one business owner.
Other concerns raised by the business community, most of whom came from other towns in the Erongo Region to attend the meeting, included the apparent strict laws placed on small and medium enterprises, and the impact of the labour law on their businesses. Business owners bombarded the presidential delegation, which comprised of Labour and Social Welfare Minister, Alpheus !Naruseb, Minister of Education, Nangolo Mbumba, and the Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry, Bernard Esau, with questions pertaining to the labour law.
Business owners felt that the impact of industrial action, especially strikes on companies, is largely ignored by trade unions, which results in huge losses in revenue for the companies.
“While negotiations are taking place, business on the other side has come to a complete standstill.
“Once negotiations produce agreements, and the striking workers return to work, how do you pay them if there has been no business on the days they were on strike?” asked one business owner.
The businesspeople proposed that the Government involves various stakeholders, including the heads of companies and parastatals when drafting bills relating to the labour law. The line minister, however, called on companies to maintain open communication channels with their employees, to avert industrial actions.
“Most of these strikes we hear about every day could be stopped if employers and employees have open door policies in their companies. People mostly go on strike as a last resort to solving their grievances,” he said.
Small and medium enterprises (SME) representatives present at the meeting raised concerns that they were being allegedly intentionally sidelined in the awarding of tenders and huge contracts by companies in the region due to their business status. SMEs representatives noted that banks and financial institutions are guilty of not relaxing their stringent requirements for the awarding of business loans, as they still require large securities prior to considering such applications.
All concerns and points raised at the gathering were documented, and responses will be sought from relevant ministries and policy makers.
Pohamba, who was touring major businesses and factories at Walvis Bay, noted that he was greatly impressed by development brought about by businesses at the harbour town. He noted that productivity is especially evident at most manufacturing and processing factories he had visited earlier that day. He hailed the private sector as having contributed largely to the development of Namibia’s young but vibrant economy.
“I am confident that with such efforts, Namibia can go a long way in becoming the preferred investment destination for many foreign investors,” he concluded.