Hundreds retrenched as businesses fold at Oshikango

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Oshikango

Close to ten Chinese shops have closed down, several others have temporarily closed while 719 employees had lost their jobs by Friday last week in Oshikango.

The situation is envisaged to worsen in the next few months as more shops continue to close their doors while more Namibians are expected to lose their jobs.

In February alone, 268 jobs were lost in Oshikango.
The chairperson of the Oshikango Business Association Raed Hijazi said business has come to a standstill following the suspension of the exchange of the Angolan kwanza against the Namibian dollar in December last year.

Hijazi said one Namibian dollar traded for 9.8 kwanza last June when the agreement was signed between the two countries but the kwanza has since depreciated and one Namibian dollar fetches 25 kwanza.

Currency exchanges are currently being done in Angola.

This, according to Hijazi, has affected Angolans from doing business at the border town as well as elsewhere in the country because the exchange rate in Angola is currently extremely high.

“The situation is catastrophic. There is no business going on here and it has affected several other sectors. People have lost jobs and more are on the verge of losing their jobs while businesses close down,” said Hijazi.

Xin Shunkang the Chinese Ambassador speaking through Xuguang Wang the director of political affairs at the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in Windhoek stated: “The embassy is not fully aware of the situation and needs time to learn the details.”

“But as far as we know, some of the business people have gone back to China for the traditional Chinese New Year celebration and have not come back yet. This is maybe one reason that some businesses remain closed. Another factor that affects Chinese business in Oshikango is the cross-border trade with Angola. The slump in the Angolan economy, led by mainly the depressing oil price, put many businesses in a hard situation including the Chinese. We sincerely hope that local business survives the hard times with the help of the government. I may come back to you with more information,” he said.

When New Era visited the border town yesterday the town was less busy than usual while several shop owners waited in vain for customers.

Some shops were stocked up but remained close while some shop owners were in the process of closing.
Hijazi who is the managing director of International Commercial said they are expecting to retrench 165 employees because they will close two of their operations.

A sales lady at International Commercial Lusia Petrus said the situation is worrisome.
“We are not happy, but there is nothing to be done. We can also see that there is currently no business going on. These days we just come here and sit and do nothing,” said Petrus.

Another sales lady said business has declined drastically and they did not receive any customers in the past two weeks.
“We had two customer that just popped in but they did not buy anything,” said the sales lady.

Hairdresser Paula Mvula expressed similar sentiments.
Mvula said she gets one customer in two weeks and it is putting a strain on her finances because they are now struggling to pay for their residential and business rent.

Maureciu Ivo an Angolan national said he was forced to close his clearing agency business but was hoping business would pick up soon.

“I was forced to close down, there is no business here but I understand that banks in Angola are now injecting US dollars in the banks, so hopefully business is likely to pick up soon,” said Ivo.

Many business people, local and international, whom New Era spoke to said the Angolans were their source of income hence business has completely gone down.

Connie Ramirez of the Oshikango Business Association said there is a dire need to find a payment mechanism to save businesses in Oshikango.

“We are as proactive as can be, but our capacity is limited and we would need government to assist us,” said Ramirez.
Northern Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NCCI) chairperson Tomas Indji could not be reached for comment at the time of going to print.

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