The diversification of the Keetmanshoop is key if the town is to have a sustainable development future.
These were the sentiments of the town’s strategic executive for local economic development Jegg Christiaan during an exclusive interview this week.
Christiaan identified agro-processing, retail, logistics and the housing sector as the key economic development areas for the town and the Karas region as a whole.
He said there is need to develop the town to accommodate the growing population. During the 2011 Census, it was found that there were around 18 000 people living in Keetmanshoop, but by 2013 the population was estimated to have increased to 35 000 according to Christiaan.
Christiaan said the town’s leadership has taken a stand not to focus the town’s development on one area to avoid negative repercussions should such a sector.
“You have seen what happened in the past to towns that are dependent on a single sector, especially the mining towns in the country, once that sector faces tough times the entire town suffers greatly. We have learned from others, hence we chose a multi-sectoral approach,” he said.
Christiaan also underscored the importance of the town’s informal economy.
“The informal sector in the town has grown exponentially over the years. We should not underestimate the turnover from our kapana vendors because it caters for our poor residents on a daily basis,” he said.
Livestock farming has been a major source of revenue for the region over the years, and Christiaan believes the livestock farming sector is growing rapidly.
“In the past we used to have one auction per month, now it has increased to two for commercial auctions while other smaller period auctions also take place during the month. Butchers are constantly calling farmers requesting for meat, and that in itself shows that our farmers are doing well. In fact, our farmers also have an opportunity to negotiate prices that are favorable to them instead of taking what the buyers offer,” he said.
As for the consumers, said Christiaan, meat is relatively cheap in the region and therefore many of our people can afford it.
Christiaan said there is a huge interest from investors when it comes to investing in Keetmanshoop because of favorable land prices at the town.
But despite the interest, Christiaan said the “more the investment the more the municipal debt in the town increases,” he said.
“It seems some investors are only interested to access municipal services and as soon as that happens they avoid paying for those services,” he said disappointingly.
Christiaan also said there is a need for scheduled flight services from Windhoek to Keetmanshoop in order to cut the travelling time between the two places.
According to Christiaan: “The security of supply when it comes to water is guaranteed, therefore investors should not worry about that. Companies such as Namibian Breweries should perhaps relocate their production base to Keetmanshoop considering the type of business they are involved in.”
“We approached the authorities to see if this arrangement can be viable but we were told we do not have a business case because we do not have the numbers. The situation is dire at the moment because you are forced to be out of office for three days just to attend a meeting in Windhoek. If the meeting is on Tuesday, you have to travel on Monday, attend the meeting and travel back to Keetmanshoop on Wednesday-meaning you are only back in the office on Thursday,” he explained.
On the accommodation front, Christiaan mentioned that the opening of University of Namibia’s Southern Campus and NIMT has pushed up the demand for accommodation-especially among the student population.
“There is currently a scramble for accommodation in the town and the demand far outweighs the supply,” said a concern Christiaan.
Last year the municipality entered into several public private partnerships with developers to address the housing shortage in the town.
It sold 36 ervens to Onghoshi Trading Investment CC at N$30 per square metre in the Tseiblaagte residential area to construct houses that will cost between N$180 000 to N$250 000.
A company called Gigi’s Construction embarked on construction drive to construct low income houses for government employees. The Council allocated 51 plots to the company for the construction of the houses at a rate of N$25 per square metre.
Shamrock Holdings- a company owned by Windhoek-based businessman Collin Venaani- also requested for land at the town to put up houses in residential areas, in exchange for the construction of a recreational facility for the municipality.
The facility will consist of two family chalets, five bachelor facilities, conference hall, restaurant, 12 camping sites, entertainment area as a well as a reception office and maintenance room.
The municipality also donated land on which a Nama Genocide memorial will be erected.
According to the municipality, the memorial will be a place of remembrance for the ancestors and serve as a symbol of peace and hope.