Friday 14 May 2021
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Tweya’s Toothpick Sermon and the Challenge of Industrialisation in Namibia

Mr Tjekero Tweya, Minister responsible for trade, industrialisation and small and medium enterprises development, was reported in the media earlier last week as to have told the Third SADC Industrialisation Forum that Namibia has failed to industrialise since independence.
Mr Tweya probable meant his speech to be a shock therapy to those who are not providing his Ministry with funds to implement Namibia’s Industrialisation Policy and its Execution Strategy known as Growth at Home.
Namibia’s Industrialisation Policy was adopted when President Hage Geingob was the Minister of Trade and Industry.
Growth at Home was midwifed by no other than Minister Calle Schlettwein , the Minster currently controlling the Government purse. One will have expected that Minister Tweya would have received full support from both.
Minister Tweya made some important points which might have been lost in verbose.
He bemoaned the fact Namibia elites prefer trinkets produced some where 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.
One would however have expected the Minister responsible for trade and industrialisation to inform us 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 Namibia 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.
Minister Tweya inherited the trade, industrialisation and SMEs development road-map, the Growth at Home Strategy. This Strategy is anchored in three interventions.
The first intervention is to support value addition and to diversify sustained growth. It envisages the development of a comprehensive support system for industrial development projects as well as to provide innovative incentive scheme and financing instruments to businesses.
Secondly, the Strategy aims at securing market access of Namibian products to regional and African markets. This requires streamlining of procedures and regulatory trade regime, among other measures.
The third intervention is the improvement of investment climate in Namibia.
This will require improving the time required for registration of businesses and lowering the cost of doing business as well as upgrading the skills of workers in order to enhance productivity and competitiveness.
Minister Tweya’s toothpick sermon was joined by known Afro-pessimists such as Professor Roman Grynberg of the University of Namibia. Writing as an Editor’s guest, he gleefully concluded: “…
What is true of toothpicks is unfortunately true for almost everything that is manufactured, whether it is refrigerators or cut diamonds or gold jewellery.
We simply cannot compete, and as a result our children have no jobs.” It is precisely for the fact of creating jobs that Namibia, small population as it is, should try by all means to attract investment and industrialise taking advantage of its strategic location on the African continental market.
Namibia has been able to do so in other sectors such as cement and salt production.
Namibia can succeed in other areas provided that there is political will and stamina to persevere in our quest for industrialisation.
Certainly, twenty- eight years is not a long time to achieve substantial industrialisation.
Like during the liberation struggle, those in charge must mobilise all our national productive resources, being labour, capital, ingenuity and the national spirit, for the battle of industrialisation.
The struggle for industrialisation shall be long a bitter but our people shall win it! The country should march forward in the spirit of Vision 2030 to become an industrial nation.

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