By Irene !Hoaes
Newly elected president of the Namibia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NCCI), John Akapandi Endjala, is certain that this time around, the chamber belongs to entrepreneurs, as more entrepreneurs are in leadership.
Endjala, who recently took over from Inge Zaamwani-Kamwi, said during his reign, the chamber will focus more on entrepreneurs without compromising its national corporate members.
Endjala, one of Namibia’s successful entrepreneurs is deputised by Martha Namundjebo-Tilahun, also another successful Namibian entrepreneur.
“The chamber was just looking at national corporate members, now we want to look at entrepreneurs and bring them into the mainstream economy,” Endjala said.
He said entrepreneurs are the future of any economy and need to be promoted as far as possible, which is not the case in Namibia.
“The only way to bring down unemployment, is let’s give entrepreneurs a chance to help build the country,” Endjala added.
Namibia is currently importing more than 80 percent of its food from neighbouring South Africa, a fact that Endjala questions, saying that Namibians can also produce some of the food locally.
“Why are we not doing anything? It’s because of the Government procurement policy. Government is one of the biggest buyers of these products, why are we not given the opportunity to produce these products,” Endjala wanted to know.
He said the Government is spending more than N$400 million for its services, a huge amount that can be poured into the local economy.
Endjala is of the opinion that the Government should also start giving long-term tenders instead of short-term ones.
He said short-term tenders do not give businesspeople the chance to really prove themselves or become really productive in whatever venture they are into.
He also charges that people dealing with tenders are not being fair to local businesses.
“Most people drafting tenders have interest in South Africa and are only benefiting those because they have been working with them for a long time,” Endjala alleged.
Another problem facing businesspeople, especially discouraging small businesses Endjala said, is when the Government gives out a tender, for example to provide food to all schools, to one company only.
He noted that this one company might not have the capacity to efficiently carry out its duty, while the same tender can be shared out to several regions so that local entrepreneurs can also participate.
Endjala also lashed out at the competition commission that was established three years ago for not doing anything for local businesses.
The body is supposed to be looking at unfair competition, especially against Namibian companies or businesses from foreign businesses.
The chamber’s head said challenges facing especially small businesses include access to information, especially businesses in the rural areas.
“Playing fields on tenders are not level, opportunities are better for urban businesses, as newspapers carrying tenders sometimes only arrive in rural areas after a day, thus putting rural businesspeople at a disadvantage,” Endjala continued his fight.
He called for the tender board to go online so that people can access it faster and easily in rural areas.
Endjala further lashed out at the Government, noting that it only creates incentives for foreign investors, while little is done for the local investor, citing Ramatex as a case in point.
“Government comes up with good initiatives but these initiatives are hijacked by people with their own agendas and driving it the other way,” Endjala noted.
Endjala said NCCI has managed to unite businesses in the country.
“It has unified black and white businesses which was not the case in the past – 10 years ago people were divided,” he added.
With regard to the current rising fuel and food prices, Endjala said life has become very difficult for everyone starting from the businessman to the ordinary Namibian.
The NCCI president is of the opinion that the Government can come up with alternatives so as to relieve people from the current economic crises.
“If no alternative, then there is still tax relief. They can do that,” Endjala added.
He is of the opinion that under current circumstances entrepreneurs will not be able to succeed in their businesses, if things do not change.
Endjala said people cannot service their loans anymore because of the high cost of living currently prevailing worldwide.
“It’s a crisis, it’s not only a NCCI problem, we need to come together as a country, as businesspeople, as workers and government and come up with suggestions,” said Endjala.
He also called on commercial banks to come up with some form of relief for their customers.
“Maybe, only let customers service their interest or only the bond itself until the crisis is over,” Endjala suggested in terms of home loans.
Endjala will lead the chamber for the next two years.