The bricks that saved a village

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The Development Bank of Namibia Good Business Award runner-up NamClay Bricks and Pavers is reviving Uis. In 1985, following unsuccessful manipulation of the global price of tin ore, the price of tin began a steep fall. The impact was felt as far afield as Namibia. In November 1990 the struggling Uis tin mine shut down operations. The closure had a disastrous impact on the village, with widespread unemployment and poverty. However, hope was on the horizon.

An enterprising father and son team saw a future in the form of the mine slimes dam of the Uis tin mine. Part of the process to extract ore from rock entails washing pulverised stone, from which the ore is separated. Once the ore is separated, the remaining material is pumped into what is known as a slimes dam. The father and son team had the foresight that bricks could be made from the clay. They would be harder than many bricks and carry the rich, decorative colour of Namibian clay.

In 2006, the company NamClay Bricks and Pavers was formed, with the goal of selling the bricks to the central coastal towns of Namibia, where they would be well suited to the moist, salty and windy environment.

Employment in the town began to climb, but challenges remained, not least of which were difficult road conditions and slow uptake of the products when the company first opened its doors. However, the bricks began to gain popularity, and can now be seen on many upmarket properties across Namibia.

The persistence of NamClay has paid off, said John Mbango, Development Bank of Namibia Head of Lending. The bank, he said, is aware of the many challenges that the company has faced, and it admires the manner in which the company rose above its challenges, to grow and prosper. The runner-up award that Namclay won, said Mbango, is a testimony to the excellent administration that rises above adversity.

Mbango said that the company has an exceptional development impact in many ways. He pointed to the fact that the company has enlivened and diversified the village’s economy. Before it opened, the major basis of the town’s economy was tourism services along the route to the Brandberg, and the future of the centre was tenuous. Significant employment has made the community far more sustainable in the long term.

He said that NamClay epitomises excellence in resource use. By using clay from a mine slimes dam the company not only makes use of local materials, but also assists to rehabilitate an area by removing the by-products of mining.
Talking about the products, Mbango pointed out that they are popular and a good substitute for imported bricks and pavers. In addition to the decorative bricks, cobblestones and pavers, the company also manufactures non-face bricks for general purposes.

Mbango said that imported bricks lead to capital outflows. Companies such as NamClay fulfil the need for construction material that arises out of Namibia’s major drive to develop infrastructure and housing, while retaining capital resources in the country. This is capital which will be used to generate incomes and consumer spending that would lead to the establishment of yet more Namibian enterprises.

He says that when construction companies support Namibian-manufactured products it helps grow the economy, which in turn stimulates the construction sector.

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