Windhoek-Namibia is currently facing multiple economic challenges. Drought, in some parts of the country, volatile commodities markets, the changing market dynamics of our neighbors, Angola and South Africa, and a temporary period during which government spending priorities are being realigned are some of the uphill scenarios facing the country. In such a dampened economic environment the challenges facing enterprises are to sustain and strengthen assets and equity on balance sheets, and sustain operations.
It is in times like these that entrepreneurs and business promoters ought to take stock of their circumstances and map out a sustainable growth trajectory for their enterprises. The Development Bank of Namibia (DBN) advocates sound business administration. Strong administration is the basis for disciplined spending, and servicing of debt and other commitments. If commitments are not met, and if administration is not sound, enterprises run the risk of losing capacity in a manner which will place them in difficulty situations to offset their financial obligations in the medium to long-term. This particularly includes robust cashflow forecasting and tracking to enable entities to identify challenges in advance and respond appropriately.
Cutbacks on unnecessary expenditure are a first response to circumstances, but must preserve operational capacity as well as the strategic assets in which an entity has invested. Ill-considered cutbacks will reduce the capacity of the enterprise with immediate effect, and will also have a long-term impact on viability. Unless the enterprise has developed a cash reserve, growth should be a secondary consideration, and approached with caution. The primary consideration should be capital preservation and retention of current capacity.
Strong relationships with existing customers will be an asset. Although the first instinct of the entrepreneur will be to maximise profit, the most sound approach is to offer value and understanding in order to preserve existing cashflow. The same applies to business-to-business (B2B) transactions and relationships. Supplier networks should leverage their understanding of shared outcomes and offer one another value in order to preserve viability of the B2B network.
In order to preserve and even strengthen capacity, DBN encourages equity participation transactions between enterprises where cash flow is required. In this manner, enterprises with strong reserves can grow their balance sheets, while enterprises that have underdeveloped reserves can build their own balance sheet.
This approach must be considered on a long-term basis, rather than as a short-term measure to bridge gaps. In addition to the long-term nature of the equity transaction, the Bank advocates common purpose of the enterprises and complementary corporate philosophy and management skills and capacity. In this regard, DBN may consider financing of equity participation, which may include management buy-outs to leverage capacity of employees.
In terms of infrastructure, the current national investor initiative proposes to place development of infrastructure, and its operation, in the hands of public private partnerships (PPPs) or purely private entities. The Bank will consider financing of particularly operating capital for Namibian holders of equity, where the entity is engaged in development and servicing of projects identified in terms of the initiative.
One of the Bank’s underlying strategies is to preserve the development impact of its customers, not just in terms of physical outputs, but also in terms of capacity for employment. In this regard, DBN advocates close cooperation with its customers. Where a customer may be experiencing challenges to cashflow, the Bank will advise on mitigation measures. The Bank has a track record of providing turnabout strategies for its customers with the help of pooled consultants, and also has an operational function to draw on proven external advisory and mentoring capacity for larger enterprises.
The Bank encourages customers to approach it for mitigation measures, where appropriate, as additional debt or delayed repayment compounds repayment commitments in the long-term.
*Jerome Mutumba is Senior Communication Manager at the Development Bank of Namibia.