Standard Bank looks into complexity of housing shortage

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Staff Reporter

Windhoek-Standard Bank recently took a radical step towards alleviating the housing shortage with an outreach challenge.

Spearheaded by Standard Bank’s chief executive, Vetumbuavi Mungunda, the CE Outreach Buy-a-Brick Challenge saw various captains of industry from both the public and private Sectors, as well as youth parliamentarians visiting informal settlements, including Havana, One Nation and Okahandja Park, to engage the residents of those settlements in a bid to raise awareness on the housing shortage and the Buy-a-Brick initiative.

“The Standard Bank Buy-a-Brick Initiative, which was launched last year, is not a new undertaking for us. In fact as a good corporate citizen it is a campaign very close to our hearts. It has also come a long way in alleviating the shortage of housing in our country through our 10 year partnership with the Shack Dwellers Federation of Namibia, of which the First Lady Madam Monica Geingos is the patron,” Mungunda said.

After a taxi ride to the settlement areas, various members of the Shack Dwellers Federation hosted the captains of industries at their homes and even shared a meal with them during the three-hour outreach challenge.

Mungunda noted that what struck him most was to see how each one of the captains of industry who attended managed to engage with their fellow countrymen and women, so as to understand the complexity of the housing challenge in Namibia.

“We’re talking to the emotions of business leaders to experience the enormity of the challenges facing low or no-income households. This [excursion] gives us an understanding and knowledge – even though it was just for three hours – of what they go through on daily basis.

“In actual fact three hours was not enough, but I believe it gives way to a call to action from all of us to work together and partner in addressing the housing shortage in our country and look at ways and means to take people out of shacks, that are prone to rain, cold and heat and move them into proper structured brick houses, a worthwhile investment and a place they can call home,” he stressed.

Last year, Standard Bank donated N$1.4 million to the Shack Dwellers Federation of Namibia and the money was used to build over 40 houses in Rehoboth.

Minister of Urban and Rural Development Sophia Shaningwa and Windhoek Mayor Muesee Kazapua were among the attendees of the outreach programme.

Shaningwa had nothing but high praise for the initiative, stating: “I fully support Standard Bank’s Outreach Challenge under the Buy a Brick Initiative, because it seeks to alleviate the plight of our mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters and children who live in shacks…

“What is pleasing to note is that this community initiative is well aligned to government’s Mass Housing Programme, as well as the land and housing provision under the social progression pillar of the Harambee Prosperity Plan as set out by our President, His Excellency Dr Hage Geingob.”

She added that the provision of housing in Namibia cannot be left to government alone, as it is not in the position to raise and provide all the resources that are required for such programmes.

“It requires the support and involvement of other stakeholders, particularly the private sector and members of the public. We, therefore, all have a collective responsibility to build a country we want to see in the future. And by doing something personal and reaching out to our less fortunate communities who live in shacks in our country we can make a difference in their lives,” she stressed.

Shaningwa urged those people living in shacks to register for the Shack Dwellers Federation, so they can also build their brick houses and further encouraged corporate entities and private sector institutions to emulate Standard Bank’s example.

One of the participating company representatives from Faan Bergh Winckler Trust, Janine Bester, warmly expressed her appreciation of the CE Outreach Challenge excursion: “It was an amazing wake-up call and special experience. We got out of our comfort zones and stepped into reality to experience the livelihoods of our communities.”

“Considering the experience that I have had, I can confidently say my eyes have been opened to the misconceptions and stereotypes of our people living in informal settlements. As young people we need to be exposed to such situations, so that as the future leaders we can make the right decisions for the Namibian population,” said Deputy Speaker of the Youth Parliament Emma Theofelus.

The excursion ended with generous pledges made by various companies and individuals towards the Buy a Brick Initiative, as well as the handing out of certificates of appreciation at the Standard Bank Katutura Branch.

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