When local isn’t lekker
• Llewellyn le Hané
Namibians are proud people, we are proud of our country, our heritage and local products. We love Windhoek and Tafel Lager, and at a braai we cannot imagine having anything else but Namibian meat to put on the coals, definitely not on briquets. Buying local and supporting local and independent businessmen and women are stimulated as much as possible – with Team Namibia championing local products as much as they can, and rightly so.
However, the notion of buying local does not extend to all products and services. Granted, we do not manufacture cars (yet, Peugeot will be coming soon), or mobile phones and myriad other products. So, with certain things, it is impossible to buy local. What has surprised me, especially in running a business, is seeing how frequently Namibian businesses, organisation and entrepreneurs just get overlooked. It is as if some of the largest and most profitable organisations in Namibia have no problem in taking the money from Namibians, but would not ever think of employing a third-party service provider to assist with their particular challenge.
We are told every day that we should buy local, employ local and there are many examples of success stories of locals that have seen their business grow. To be honest, Green, as an information technology service provider and iIntegrator has managed to sustain continuous growth, but it has been a continuous struggle, especially coming from previously disadvantaged backgrounds as so many of us do. Companies like Green and other Namibian organisations have built capacity, knowledge and invested heavily in being able to provide corporations based in Namibia with high quality and high levels of expertise in their given field. Yet, each and every time there is a tender or a Request For Proposals from financial institutions, State Owned Enterprises (SOEs), telecom providers and companies in almost every sector imaginable will choose a non-Namibian company over a Namibian one.
This is not just disheartening, but it does real damage to the Namibian economy. Not just because a South African, or a foreign company gets the contract, rather than a Namibian-based organisation but it damages the economy because the lessons learnt, the skills that are acquired during the implementation of a certain project do not stay in the country to be passed on. With the consultant, project leader or a team leaving Namibia after implementation, the knowledge is lost to us. This means that next time when a company requires certain products or services, a Namibian company will still not have the know-how, as previously a foreign entity won the contract.
If we want to become a knowledge-based society, where service and skills are the basis for growth in our economy, we need to be able to develop these skills. It is pointless to invest and equip people with skills and then not utilise these skills. Unused skills get lost over time. Vast sums are invested in sending local Namibians on training and seminars in Namibia, as well as abroad so that they may acquire the necessary skills in information and communication technology, finance, ITIL and other sectors. This is stimulated by companies and the government.
If, however, they cannot implement or put their newfound skills into practice then what is the point? We all know; ‘practice makes perfect’. Yet, if we are unable to hone our skills, then there is little point in investing in our own people and developing employees, and becoming a knowledge-based society is nothing more than a fanciful notion.
Namibian companies taking the bold steps to contract local Namibian companies will help see our economy grow in a sustained manner. Of course, Namibian organisations will not always have all the answers, but we have a lot more skills, knowledge and expertise than we are given and give each other credit for.
Perhaps if we think about this a little more, we will in future truly be able to say; “Local is lekker”.
*Llewellyn le Hané is a Director of Green Enterprise Solutions (PTY) Ltd