Information and communication technology (ICT) around the world are continuing to evolve at a speed that seems to be increasing exponentially and this evolution is more evident now that many companies have realised, after the Covid-19 lockdowns, that more and more employees can efficiently work from home. This week, New Era’s Senior Business Journalist, Edgar Brandt (EB) sat down with Llewellyn le Hané (LH), MD of a truly Namibian IT company, Green Enterprise Solutions.
Green has been providing ICT services to corporate Namibia for the last 10 years and embodies a long-term objective to sustain a Namibian business that makes positive contributions to its stakeholders. Green’s vision is guided by Namibia’s national development plans, namely Vision 2030, the National Development Plan (NDP) 5 and the Harambee Prosperity Plan (HPP).
EB: Tell me about Green Enterprise Solutions and your role in it?
LH: We started Green Enterprise Solutions in 2010, as local, previously disadvantaged IT-geeks we believed that we could deliver high quality and cutting-edge IT-tech to local clients in Namibia. We have been doing just that and are about to celebrate our 10th anniversary!
EB: How has the Namibian IT and business landscape changed in the last 10 years?
LH: Just look at your phone and think back to the phone you had 10 years ago. It’s a different world. Change has come, even here in Namibia where we often lag behind, the difference is obvious. However, we talk a good game as Namibians, but we are prone to not embracing real change. A small shift here, a small innovation there, but large-scale comprehensive change always seems out of reach. We use a million excuses to keep the status quo, never truly examining how much we are losing socio-economically because of this. Vital development and nation building becomes elusive for the Land of the Brave.
EB: How should we tackle the challenges facing Namibia and perhaps even as southern Africa?
LH: We are moving forward and moving towards Namibia’s ‘bold’ Vision 2030, …we are ambitious on paper and in theory, we need to be ambitious in practise in everything that we do. It starts with the development of our education and our students, we are putting their futures in jeopardy otherwise. As a Namibian and a true son of the soil, this pains me greatly as I believe in this country and the resilience of all its people. This is why I spent my working life building and supporting companies that nurture development and growth of our employees and plough back into the economy. Empowering them, as I believe it will uplift the nation and create ‘growth at home.’ It starts with our stakeholder communities.
EB: How does technology play a role in tackling Namibia’s challenges?
LH: We know the vital role technology plays in alleviating some of the teething development challenges weighing down our country’s prospects for growth. A total rethink of the public and private sector can improve productivity, service delivery and unlock huge potential for new businesses, leveraging and technology, digitising processes where we can. Making our organisations effective, efficient and implementing tech where we can. Taking ‘ best practises’ from other countries and introducing them here. If we don’t totally embrace IT and technology, we will still be talking about growth, development and innovation in 10 years with nothing to show for it. This is something, which can and must be avoided at all costs if we are to truly build a viable and competitive nation for our future generations.
EB: You mention ‘stakeholder communities’, what do you mean and how can they help develop this nation?
LH: His Excellency, Dr Geingob and his Cabinet have envisioned the building of the Namibian House; it takes collaboration, partnership and full engagement from all stakeholders in our community to build a house. All pulling in the same direction, to put it within the African context; we are talking about evoking the spirit ‘Harambee’ and leveraging the ‘Ubuntu’ philosophy. This means that at the grassroots level we are investing, stimulating and nurturing companies, entrepreneurs and innovators right here in Namibia. Especially in these new strange times, it’s more important than ever.
EB: Is this already happening in Namibia and why is it now more important than ever?
LH: Covid-19 has thrown out the script, as we know it. Everything has changed. Borders have closed, trade has diminished and we see big strong economies crumbling. However, what we are also seeing is innovation, development and people setting up their own businesses. Whether it’s making masks, hand sanitisers, apps for testing and tracing or creating tech for hands-free interaction. These developments are not only to be applauded, they should be supported at all levels and by the communities. Sometimes a small loan, or even just giving a platform to the goods and services being offered and developed is enough to propel the innovator or entrepreneur to the next level. Namibia has the people, the ideas, the know-how and the hunger to develop and become the knowledge-based country it aspires to be by 2030.
EB: Despite the challenges Namibia is facing you still sound positive and optimistic. Why is this?
LH: Well, first of all that’s in my nature. You can’t start a company in this country if you are not optimistic about the future. We have a young, vibrant population and every Namibian wants contribute to the building of the Namibian house. By being fully engaged with the communities, we can make this happen. This means that as a business, I feel we have a responsibility not just to create employment, but also to help build our communities, to engage with young people and see where possible opportunities lie. The great thing with technology is…the next billion-dollar idea can come from anywhere, why should not it come from Windhoek, or Keetmanshoop or Oshakati or Katima Mulilo for that matter?
EB: Is there anything else you would like to add?
LH: We can establish an environment where everything is set up to stimulate an innovative economy from a grassroots level and be the catalyst for an innovative economic sector in Namibia. Building ourselves and each other up as a community for the Namibian community.