By Anna Ingwafa
Business people in the north have asked the Ministry of Trade and Industry to involve and protect them from “unfair competition from foreign investors” that kill their pride and businesses.
A number of northern business people convened a meeting with Minister of Trade and Industry, Dr Hage Geingob, aimed at airing their grievances against foreign business counterparts, at Eenhana on Sunday.
NCCI President, John Endjala, informed the minister that the local businesspeople are unable to compete because of inequality in doing business.
Endjala told the minister that the Foreign Investment Act and procurement of tenders need urgent revision.
He accused business people, particularly Chinese business people, of contravening the Health Act.
“These people sleep, cook and have mobile toilets within their business premises and nothing has been done so far but if a Namibian business person does that, then the business will be closed by the municipality,” said Endjala.
The group is concerned by the rising number of Chinese people involved in the construction business who seemingly bring in their own laymen instead of employing Namibians who also have skills in construction.
Endjala called on business people to unite and collaborate in order to be able to compete with big foreign investments.
Through the NCCI Northern Branch, they presented a letter to the minister that states that the local entrepreneurs especially Namibian small and medium enterprises (SMEs) face serious competition from foreigners trading in areas which can adequately be covered by local entrepreneurs.
“We therefore request the minister to urgently invoke section 3 (4) of the Namibian Foreign Investment Act in order to prohibit foreign business participation in those services or production of goods which can be provided adequately by Namibian small and medium enterprises. The threshold of all Government procurement tenders from construction and supply of services must be raised to N$30 million and reserved for Namibian SMEs and unemployed youth to kick-start these industries within this financial year.”
They gave a deadline of not later than August this year.
They have also requested a moratorium on all sale of land to foreign nationals and national dialogue and a round table to discuss the question of land and economic development.
The meeting should be convened by the NCCI National Council not later than September 2008.
The minister acknowledged the constraints and challenges that are faced by small and medium Namibian businesses particularly with the advent of globalisation, the reduction of import duties and tariffs, and the influx of foreign competitors in the local market.
Geingob said the influx of Chinese busines people in the country is alarming and it is a big concern especially how they qualified for work permits.
“I am investigating on that one.”
On tenders, Geingob said there is no tender framework in place at the moment, thus the Office of the Prime Minister is at work drawing up the legal framework.
He called on the local businesses to concentrate on manufacturing rather than the current retailing trend.
“You all want to retail. Retailing is not creating jobs. You are buying and selling and that is not business that can create jobs to solve unemployment pressure. But all of you want the easy way out, why can you not come up with manufacturing plans for different things?” he asked.
Geingob stressed people’s mindset of regarding the country as rich yet people are poor. However, Namibia has unfair distribution of wealth, which makes it impossible to define its status.
He assured the business community that his door is open for dialogue until the problem is solved, but will not be compelled to adhere to deadlines because there is need for time to consult.