WINDHOEK – Government has reiterated that certain sectors of the economy, such as retail, hair salons, taxis and others, should be reserved for Namibians only. “During my tenure as a Minister of Trade we already started the process of changing the Namibia Foreign Investment Act to demarcate strategic areas in which the State would have a say and those in which only Namibians could invest, and still another category for joint ventures between foreigners and Namibians. I do not know what is causing the delay in enacting the new investment law, which will fast-track the industrialization process and Namibian ownership of the economy,” Prime Minister Dr Hage Geingob said during the Growth at Home Conference in the capital last week Thursday.
The conference examined creating conditions and harnessing joint efforts to bring about desired high and sustained levels of economic growth, employment and wealth creation by diversifying the structure and content of the Namibian economy.
According to Geingob, the new investment law will form an integral part of the Growth at Home strategy and he urged that the new legislation be tabled “soonest” before parliament. The new investment legislation will also for the first time in the country’s history define who an investor is, including their obligations, rights and compliance with local laws, and their corporate social responsibility.
Said Geingob: “In today’s ever-changing economic and political global environment, the importance of an effective domestic law to safeguard our ownership and management of strategic natural resources cannot be overstated.”
The Prime Minister however encouraged foreign investors to enter into joint venture partnerships with Namibian companies to produce home-grown products for domestic and export markets.
Also speaking at the conference, Minister of Trade and Industry, Calle Schlettwein, stated that while Namibia has experienced positive growth, which has resulted in gains in per capita income, the growth has been jobless. “It has not performed well in translating economic growth into sufficient additional jobs. Equally, the economy performed below expectations in terms of equalising wealth distribution. This is largely attributed to the fact that the structure of our economy has remained narrow and resource-based.”
Schlettwein said Namibia’s economic growth is still largely fueled by production and exports from extractive industries, adding that he was concerned that the growth and share contribution of the manufacturing sector has remained low over the years. The contribution of the manufacturing sector in real terms reduced from 14 percent in 2010 to 13 percent in 2012.
Geingob, who delivered the keynote address, also pointed out that for Namibia to register a positive trade balance with other countries, exports of raw materials, such as diamonds, copper, zinc, gold, semi-precious stones and others, must come to an end. “It is a matter of sensible development economics for us to increase value addition in the mining sector and thereby stop exporting the jobs and capital which are directly needed for an employment generating economy. Also, with a variety of locally produced products for the export market, our global trade balance will become positive as we start exporting truly Namibian made products,” continued Geingob.
The Prime Minister went on to say that another good reason for an effective investment law is that sometimes natural resources, such as gold and uranium, are sold on an international stock exchange without the consent of the Namibian Government. “For example, Paris-based group, Areva, acquired uranium shares on the stock exchange from Uranim, without any involvement or consent of the Namibian Government. Consequently, we do not even benefit in any way from such transactions. As government, we should exercise oversight on the country’s natural resources so that foreigners should not own it 100 percent, but rather through joint venture partnerships with Epangelo,” explained Geingob.
Schlettwein also weighed in on value addition to natural resources, saying: “While emphasizing increased local value addition to our natural resources and a high share contribution of manufacturing, our Growth at Home strategy also accentuates the linkages and coordination between the various sectors and role players in the economy and society.
We all have roles and responsibilities to contribute and ensure the transformation of our economy in order to bring about the desired levels of growth, employment, and income and wealth distribution. As the saying goes, ‘Charity begins at home’, and it is my belief that the resources of our country, natural and human, should be exploited to first and foremost generate growth and tangible benefits at home.”
By Edgar Brandt