Windhoek-The most recent figures from the Namibia Statistics Agency (NSA) indicate the country’s trade deficit for the first quarter of 2017 was estimated at N$3,185 million. This deficit was attributed to exports of N$16,905 million and imports of N$20,089 million.
Overall, exports fell by N$5,508 million, from N$21,963 million in the first quarter of 2016 to N$16,905 million in the first quarter of 2017, which is a 23 percent decline. During the same period imports decreased by N$2,321 million or 10.4 percent.
The trade deficit witnessed in quarter one of 2017 grew by N$2,737 million, or 611.5 percent, compared to the revised deficit of N$448 million registered in the corresponding quarter a year earlier. In comparison to the previous quarter, the deficit narrowed by N$8,235 million (72.1 percent) from N$11,420 million. The growth in the deficit from N$448 million in the first quarter of 2016 was mainly attributed to a stronger decline observed in exports compared to the decline recorded in imports.
Namibia’s overall trade, consisting of both exports and imports, for the first quarter of 2017 was estimated at N$36,994 million, representing a decline of 16.6 percent compared to N$44,374 million recorded in the first quarter of 2016. In addition, the N$36,994 million recorded in the first quarter of this year also represents a decline of 11.4 percent compared to the fourth quarter of 2016 which recoded N$41,762 million of overall trade.
Over the past twenty quarters, from the second quarter of 2012 to the first quarter of 2017, Namibia’s trade balance averaged to a deficit of N$6,043 million and witnessed the only surplus of N$1,233 million in the second quarter of 2012. The local economy continued posting unfavourable trade balances, with the highest deficit estimated at N$11,622 million witnessed in the second quarter of 2015.
According to the statistician general and CEO of the Namibia Statistics Agency, Alex Shimuafeni, the persistent deficits are mostly driven by Namibia’s high demand for high-valued manufactured commodities and machinery from the rest of the world, while exporting commodities of low value or primary goods, not including diamonds.
Namibia’s export market was led by South Africa, the Export Processing Zone, Norway, Botswana and Switzerland, which combined absorbed 56.8 percent of Namibia’s total exports of N$16,905 million. However exports to these markets weakened, falling by N$6,268 million (39.5 percent) compared to N$15,861 million recorded in the same period last year.
On a quarterly basis, exports to these markets grew by N$1,317 million (15.9 percent) from N$8,276 million witnessed in the fourth quarter of 2016.
The annual decline in exports to the main export markets reduced their share to 56.8 percent of Namibia’s total exports, from a level of 72.2 percent accounted for in the corresponding quarter a year earlier, but up from 54.6 percent in the previous quarter.
The recent decline in exports to the aforesaid markets was mainly reflected in the value of exports to Switzerland, dropping by N$6,077 million (82 percent) compared to N$7,408 million observed in the same period last year. This decline was mainly attributed to diamonds (92.1 percent), copper ores (90.4 percent) and copper cathodes (38.0 percent). Furthermore, exports of the same commodities to Switzerland dropped by 84.6 percent, 32.0 percent and 26.3 percent respectively from the previous quarter.
Exports to Botswana equally declined, registering N$1,598 million in the first quarter of 2017 compared to N$2,698 million and N$2,404 million recorded in the first quarter 2016 and the fourth quarter of 2016 respectively, resulting in a yearly decline of 40.7 percent and a quarterly decline of 33.5 percent. The recent decline in exports to Botswana was led by beverages (including alcoholic) (57.2 percent), mineral fuels and oils (44.9 percent), diamonds (41.4 percent) and salt and sulphur (26.8 percent). Similarly, exports to Norway and Italy also weakened.
Exports to the EPZ rose sharply, registering N$1,746 million in quarter one of 2017 compared to N$826 million in quarter one of 2016 and N$1,008 million in quarter 4 of 2016, representing 111.4 percent and 73.1 percent growth respectively, as exports of diamonds to the EPZ grew.
Furthermore, exports to South Africa also improved, recording 17.2 percent and 13.0 percent compared to N$2,741 million in the first quarter of 2016 and N$2,844 million in the fourth quarter of the same year respectively, with the most notable growth observed in exports of mineral fuels and oils; live animals, fish, and beverages (including alcoholic).
Further growth in exports were registered by the United Arab Emirates (180.8 percent), Belgium (122.6 percent), France (56.1 percent) and Spain (7.7 percent).
The latest figures from the NSA show that South Africa, Botswana, Zambia, China and Bulgaria emerged as the main sources of imports for Namibia during the period under review. These markets made up 78.2 percent of Namibia’s total import bill from the rest of the world, up from 70.7 percent share accounted for in the corresponding period a year ago, and from 62.9 percent witnessed in the previous quarter. The combined import bill from the aforesaid markets amounted to N$15,719 million, a decline of 0.8 percent, compared to N$15,842 million witnessed in the same period last year, and a decline of 6.0 percent compared to N$16,273 million in the preceding quarter.