Namibia’s premier annual tourism indaba – the Namibia Tourism Expo – came to an end last weekend. While this event is supposed to be a national event in a real sense, it remains to a great degree still a sectional minority one, in which only a fraction of the Namibian population has an interest, are engaged and involved.
That this is the case is certainly part of the colonial legacy, a legacy that to a great extent, if not completely and absolutely, remains intact, and to the advantage of a fraction of the population, the previously advantaged minority.
This is the reality and message that the CEO of the Namibian Tourism Board, Digu //Noabeb, seemed to be wanting to send, not only in terms of the tourism sector, but in many – if not most – sectors of the economy where the previously advantaged are still calling the tunes and dominating.
“Black Namibians are still largely excluded from the country’s tourism sector for a number of reasons, including lack of access to start-up loans, as they do not have the necessary collateral,” //Noabeb stated as a matter of fact.
It is perhaps a fact that is not news 26 years after independence, freedom, self-determination and sovereignty. This is as a matter of fact still the norm and rule rather than an exception in Namibia.
Not only for the tourism sector, but for most sectors of the economy, business, financial and otherwise, where the people remain on the periphery of most – if not all – sectors, with many from the disadvantaged classes having only a semblance of entering these sectors, while they are no more than compradors to those who still call the tune in these various sectors, without any of them being meaningfully in charge of any of the various sectors of the economy.
I challenge anyone to show us any sectors of the economy in which the previously disadvantaged, over the 26 years of Namibian freedom and independence, have made significant and notable inroads, other than being mere appendages and second division players, or worse still, mere ball boys and girls (mere caddies) in these sectors, to use the sports analogy.
There are very few exceptions to this unpalatable phenomenon. One of the sectors where the previously disadvantaged have seemingly been actively engaged and involved, without necessarily being in charge, is the livestock sector.
The contribution of especially communal farmers to the production of livestock and meat industry in the country could not have been amplified more by the chief executive officer of Agra, Arnold Klein, who was recently quoted in the local media as pointing out that, “Communal farmers occupy about 48% of the total farming area of Namibia and hold approximately 68 percent of the total cattle population.”
But the pertinent question is to what extent does this gives them any control over this sector, especially in terms of determining the prices of their products, which obviously has been out of their control and has rather been – and is being – determined somewhere else; not by laws of demand and supply as it ought to have been.
While as producers they are supposed to be calling the shots, at least in terms of determining the prices of their products, communal farmers have rather been at the mercy of some syndicates. They have seemingly been alone in fighting these syndicates.
Even the various farmers’ unions who are supposed to represent these voiceless farmers, have been ominously mute, if not silent. Official disposition towards their plight has also equally been unknown. And this seems to be the norm across the board, as far as the various economic sectors and their unbundling is concerned in order to accommodate the previously disadvantaged.
Yes, there has been seen a light at the end of the tunnel, as far as the fishing sector is concerned, but the myriad trials and tribulations of new entrants in this sector, especially the previously disadvantaged are well documented.
One only wonders what the policy interventions in the various sectors have been in this regard and why do they seem to have been of no or little impact? Is it because of the cautiousness in which many such policy interventions seem to be cast, for fear of rocking the boat of – usually invisible if not ghostly – investors.
One sector which also remains exclusive to the previously advantaged, while those close to it, especially from the previously disadvantaged who have succeeded in joining the exclusive club of gatekeepers in these sectors, have been making us believe that a substantial number of the propertied are from the previously disadvantaged, is the property market.
Paging recently through a copy of ‘Property News magazine’ – the estate agents and property market publication – one could not but get the impression that the property sector is still lily-white.