Windhoek – Investors from across the world yesterday scrambled for news of what Namibia can offer in terms of investment opportunities – displayed carte blanche at the ‘Invest in Namibia Conference’ currently taking place in Windhoek.
Investors travelled from nearly 20 countries, including Europe and the USA.
Oddly, the success of the conference could be summed up by the oversubscription of delegates to the conference, as the number of participants was so much larger than anticipated by organisers that it caused the electricity to trip during the first minutes of the opening.
The visitors have all arrived to glimpse the investment opportunities the country has to offer. And opportunities there are aplenty.
The shopping list presented to investors by Economic Planning Minister Tom Alweendo presents opportunities in tourism, agriculture, housing, transport and logistics.
In some areas of investment, such as tourism, agriculture, transport and logistics, investors are being urged to put on their innovative thinking caps, as some of the solutions the country may not yet have considered are already available in other markets.
Alweendo pointed to the tourism sector, which with over 1,5 million arrivals in 2015, is in need of more product offerings. He mentioned medical tourism for example, and suggested there are many other potential tourism products to develop.
Then there is the agricultural sector, which Alweendo says is one of the sectors that have the potential to add tangible value to the local economy. “It can benefit by adding more value and innovation that improves production,” Alweendo said, referring to the weaning process and other activities in mid-production of livestock management.
“It is my hope that over the next several days we will pursue investment opportunities aimed at creating sustainable and shared wealth. Let’s focus on value addition, rather than resource extraction.
“Let’s aim to pursue the principles of shared prosperity and be prepared to give a little to get a little for the benefit of all our people.
“Let’s use this platform to invest in a more inclusive Namibia, a more inclusive Africa and a more inclusive world, characterised by sustainable and shared prosperity,” said President Hage Geingob in his opening address to the conference.
Geingob took time to elaborate before the delegates on the much talked about New Equitable Economic Empowerment Framework (NEEEF), which dominated headlines after being cited by Fitch Ratings Agency in its downward revision of the country’s economic outlook.
Fitch and other detractors have opined that NEEEF could potentially scare off investors to Namibia. But NEEEF, the president says, is one way to correct the imbalances of the past, including narrowing the huge income disparities, as government cannot just sit by and watch income inequality grow.
“We need to share the resources in this society. If you are wealthy, let’s share that wealth,” Geingob told the multitude of investors and local businesspeople.
He further noted that even in countries, like the United States of America, the government understood that gross inequality bears negative consequences in terms of national unity and political stability.
“Prior to my trip to the United States in September this year, a journalist posed a question as to how I would explain NEEEF to the Americans. I replied by saying that it was due to social inequalities that affirmative action policies were put in place in the United States. Namibia, which remains one of the countries with the highest income gaps in the world, therefore, has every right to pursue broad-based economic empowerment,” Geingob related.
He added that his administration has clear policies aimed at redressing existing social imbalances.
These include Vision 2030, the national development plans and most recently, the Harambee Prosperity Plan, which aims to accelerate economic growth to bring about shared prosperity.
“Despite adverse initial conditions, including racial segregation and one of the highest income gaps in the world, Namibia has managed to lift half a million people out of poverty. This was achieved through deliberately attuning fiscal policy to be pro-growth and pro-poor. In this connection, the bulk of budgetary allocations have been directed to our education, health and social protection systems,” President Geingob added.
He noted, however, that government is aware that deficits remain a feature of the country’s socio-economic architecture. These include a shortfall in the supply of decent shelter and sanitation. This, he said, presents an opportunity to investors.
Even though the global economy is volatile, Namibia remains ripe for investment, he said.
“Indeed, Namibia is poised for direct investment, as government has undertaken major economic reforms in macro-economic management by embracing market-oriented policies, with the private sector playing a leading role,” said Minister of Industrialisation, Trade and SME Development Immanuel Ngatjizeko.
“Although the current global economy remains volatile, we would like to prove with this conference that Namibia is still ideally positioned to benefit from the present economic environment by offering investors more conducive avenues to attain a better return on their investments,” Ngatjizeko said.
He further said Namibia has always been a country that is friendly to foreign direct investment.
By way of example Ngatjizeko noted that Namibia has implemented a great number of investment incentives through its Economic Development Incentives Programme.
“The new Investment Promotion Act, which has been recently enacted, aims to improve Namibia’s ability to attract and retain meaningful foreign direct investment for long-term sustainable development. The discerning investor, looking for attractive fiscal benefits and an appropriate enabling environment, surely cannot afford to miss the opportunity that Namibia offers,” Ngatjizeko advised.
– Additional reporting by Kuzeeko Tjitemisa and Edgar Brandt.