This week’s Invest in Namibia Conference was a real joy to watch. An initiative of President Hage Geingob, the conference brought together nearly 1 000 delegates, hundreds of whom flew from some of the world’s leading economies, such as the USA, Germany, UK and others.
It was heart-warming to see President Geingob seated in most of the sessions and listening attentively to investors as they discussed what they have to offer a nation like ours.
Geingob’s decision to lower himself to the level of sitting in sessions, where his ministers and their portfolio technocrats were in attendance, showed not only his humility, but how desperate he is to see this country grow from strength to strength economically.
He has been very hands-on as far as this conference is concerned, starting with the amazing work he did in the USA during the month of September by drumming up interest through media interviews and public lectures at high profile universities, such as Harvard.
Naysayers had a field day at the time, castigating the President for being in America for an extended period. We said, in our editorial of September 16, that the trip had its positives that the nation needed to be made aware of by the media. Unfortunately most of our peers in the industry were more concerned about the hotel bills incurred.
This is what we said at the time: “Whether the trip and its perceived length were necessary and justified would depend on its end results. Namibia needs marketing and investment. Namibia needs to grow its economy in order to stimulate jobs. Government cannot continue to be the answer to providing jobs – the private sector must come to the party.”
The conference, despite nagging glitches in terms of organisation, was hugely successful. New Era reported yesterday that deals worth billions of dollars were concluded or committed to. One deal alone – for a steel manufacturing plant signed between MK International of South Korea, Otavi Town Council and Otavi Rebar Manufacturing – was concluded to the tune of N$3.4 billion.
Add other deals signed or where preliminary commitment was reached and we could be talking about billions more destined for our economy. This would ease the burden on government, which in the first place should not have been the biggest employer in the country.
Government has cleared the path by putting in place top quality infrastructure, such as roads, rail lines and world class harbours. Indeed, Namibia is a good African story to tell. It is now over to the private sector, because fertile ground for growth has been paved for them.
Government has even gone a mile further to create attractive stimulant packages, such as relaxed laws for investors, both local and foreign, as well as lenient tax regimes to help businesses grow. In some case, tax holidays are imposed to give investors breathing space and to consolidate their stance in their market for their own revenue generation and growth.
Invest in Namibia should, therefore, become a regular instalment and not a once-off event, Mr President. This is because new investment opportunities will continue to pop up in this country and investors need to know. We should, therefore, host this event every year of every second year.
When Namibian families have jobs, overreliance on government for basic services such as food would be reduced. We cannot solve existing problems by dishing out food to families while the economy is stagnant.
Let’s grow the economy, create jobs and Namibians would take care of themselves. Government can then redirect its efforts to other priorities, such as education and health.