In addition to the N$64.5 billion worth of goods that Namibia exported last year, is the N$12.258 million worth of goods exported by the often-ignored informal traders commonly seen at various border posts with huge loads of goods on bicycles and wheelbarrows.
In a maiden survey of only six border posts, the Namibia Statistics Agency (NSA) found that informal traders export goods worth millions but are not captured formally because the trade figures are below the Customs and Excise threshold for recording.
The survey was conducted at Ariamsvlei, Noordoewer, Omahenene, Oshikango, Wenela and Calai border posts.
Informal traders at Oshikango exported goods worth N$8.9 million, while traders at the obscure Omahenene border post in the Omusati Region exported goods worth N$1.5 million, and at Wenela in the Zambezi Region informal traders exported goods worth N$1.1 million.
“In Africa, about 41 percent of GDP is from informal trade. This is an indication of [informal trade’s] significance and relevance,” said the NSA in its report.
In an interesting twist, the survey also found that informal traders exported nearly N$775 750 worth of goods last year through the non-formalised border post of Calai in the Omusati Region. This prompted NSA to recommend the formalisation of Calai due to “a lot of exports recorded at this border”.
Namibia’s formal exports for 2014 were recorded at N$64.5 billion, and comprised mostly of diamonds, ships and floating structures, ores, fish, ships and copper.
In contrast though informal traders exported mainly fish and processed fish, fruits and vegetables, fishing lines and nets, building materials, non-alcoholic beverages, clothes, electronic gadgets, bread and biscuits and eggs, fuels, maize meal, rice, toiletries, sugar and sugar cane.
NSA also recommended additional enumerators for Oshikango, Omahenene Calai and Wenela border posts due to high informal trade movements at these border posts.
The next survey would include the border posts of Katwitwi, Ngoma, Kasamane and Trans Kalahari to determine their informal trade significance.
The bulk of Namibia’s total exports for 2014 went to Botswana, South Africa, Switzerland, Korea and Angola. Botswana topped Namibia’s export list with N$10.7 billion worth of goods exported to that country.
Namibia exports to South Africa dropped by 29.9 percent while those to Switzerland rose strongly by 44.3 percent. The commodities, which contributed to the strong rise in exports to Switzerland, were copper and ores.
High demand for copper by Switzerland and South Africa last year more than doubled (139.02 percent) exports of that metal to N$3.5 billion compared to N$1.5 billion in 2013. Diamond continues to dominate the export market with an increase of 11.6 percent mainly to Botswana, South Africa, Belgium and the USA.
Exports to other countries increased by 3 percent to N$44.8 billion from N$41.8 billion recorded in the previous year. South Africa, South Korea, China, Bahamas and Germany were the main suppliers of goods to Namibia last year. The overall value of imports from these countries increased by 7.1 percent to N$37.5 billion compared to N$31.1 billion in 2013. These markets accounted for 73.6 percent of total imports in 2014 compared to 66.5 percent in the previous year.
The value of fish exported was constant and is mainly to Spain, South Africa, DRC and Mozambique.
Imports from South Korea increased strongly to N$5.9 billion compared to N$175 million in the previous year, due to temporal importation of ships, boats and floating structures.
On the other hand, increases in the value of imports were noted from China at 61.3 percent and South Africa at 13.6 percent. In the case of China, the increase was mainly attributed to electrical machinery and equipment, boilers, machinery and mechanical appliances.
Imports from other countries outside the top five listed countries decreased by 7.1 percent to N$23.9 billion compared to N$24.6 billion recorded in 2013.