Friday 14 May 2021
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Namibia must embrace 4th industrial revolution: Economist

Local economist Mally Likukela says Namibia must embrace the 4th industrial revolution if it wants to meet its Vision 2030 targets “instead of aspiring to manufacture toothpicks”.
His view comes days after the Minister of Industrialisation, Trade and SME Development Tjekero Tweya publicly stated that government has dismally failed to deliver on industrialisation of the country since independence.
“The statement demonstrated in no clear terms the limitations that exists in the understanding of what industrialization really is, especially amongst our respected leaders. Crying over the failure to manufacture cheap stuff such as toothpicks or aiming to manufacture such low value things defeats the whole purpose of vision 2030 and the Harambee Prosperity Plan, and even the National Industrial Policy because these developmental aspirations are far too superior and ambitious than just producing toothpicks,” said Likukela when asked on Namibia’s prospects to meet its Vision 2030 targets.
“Namibia will not be able to compete or become competitive if we continue to aim for “just average” or the easy stuff. The way forward for Namibia is to embrace the 4th industrial revolution – technology and digital pace – that is what Namibia should aspire for, not toothpicks,” he challenged.
“Manufacturing toothpicks is not industrialization, given that the world is now entering the 4th industrial revolution – where countries focus on enhancing technology and digital communications to improve productivity and economic growth for local markets and more so for exports.”
Aspiring to manufacture toothpicks is more like choosing the easy way out, Likukela said.
“Namibia should choose to manufacture products that can be exported especially now that we are entering deeper levels of economic integrations (The AfTA, and the global world trade ). Toothpicks will only be sold or donated to hostels, prisons and hospitals for free, as no country can import such low value products, anywhere in the world,” he said.
Writing in his weekly newspaper column for The Patriot, former Prime Minister Nahas Angula said Tweya made some important points which might have been lost in “verbose” when he spoke during the industrialisation week.
“He (Tweya) bemoaned the fact Namibia elites prefer trinkets produced somewhere else than in Namibia. This is quite true. We import expensive suits, shoes, cars and the like instead of supporting our infant industries. The toothpick symbolises such behaviour. We are supposed to spend our foreign reserves on productive items, such as machinery, technology and expertise. By spending our hard- earned foreign currency on consumption goods we create balance of payment deficits and trade imbalances. Here, Minister Tweya is spot on. We need to re-examine our priorities as far as spending our foreign currency is concerned,” said Angula.
Angula said he expected Tweya, as the minister responsible for trade and industrialisation, to inform the nation on the challenges he is facing and why industrialisation is not taking off fast for economic growth and employment creation.
“The Minister declared that Namibia has nothing to offer as far as intra-African trade is concerned. He should have done his home-work before making such a statement. The next day of the Industrialisation Forum, the African Export-Import Bank of South Africa issued the findings of a Research Survey on Intra-African Trade. The survey clearly indicated that Namibia contributed six percent to intra-African trade. Issue 51 of Business, Finance and Economics published by Namibian Sun newspaper of August 1, 2018, clearly show Namibia trading statistics with the world and the rest of Africa.
The publication indicated that during the first quarter of 2018, Namibia exported to South Africa goods to the value of N$ 3.35 billion, Botswana N$1.93 billion and Zambia N$753 million. These are just part of the top five export markets for Namibian goods. The main export items were diamonds, fish, ores, zinc and copper cathodes. Currently Namibia has a production excess of cement, fish, beef, salt, charcoal, beer, just to mention a few. It is imperative therefore for Namibia to intensify its efforts toward access to trade and market information,” Angula noted.

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