When South Africa sneezes, Namibia catches the cold. We are reminded of this famous saying every time political upheaval grips our neighbours south of the Orange River.
This time around, the vicious cycle of violence, death and looting that erupted in South Africa has compounded an already contracted regional economic performance in the face of a devastating global pandemic. The escalating violence and looting have crippled South Africa’s most important industries, led to the deaths of over 72
people, while there has been a slide in the country’s currency, which the Namibia dollar is also pegged to.
There is no doubt that we have already caught the terrible cold, considering the devastating ripple effect the
unrest in South Africa has on our economy.
We simply can’t do without one of Africa’s industrial powerhouses. South Africa’s GDP is more than twice the size of nine other SADC countries combined.
No wonder, for years we continue to import commodities from South Africa, including high-value manufactured goods, vehicles, chemicals, iron and steel products, vegetables, toys and sports apparel, and even toothpicks. Much has been said about our over-reliance on South Africa, and whether it was sustainable in the long run.
South Africa remained Namibia’s largest import market, with a share of 32% of the value of all goods received into the country during April 2021.
According to the April 2021 Trade Statistics Bulletin compiled by the Namibia Statistics Agency (NSA), Namibia’s trade composition by partner illustrated that China remained Namibia’s largest export market, while South Africa maintained her first position as Namibia’s largest
source of imports. As many commentators suggested
this week, the unfolding unrest in South Africa is surely another wake-up call for Namibian stakeholders to look at coming up with ways aimed at reducing our excessive dependence on South Africa. Surely, boosting local industrialisation capacity and wooing investors to our shores will go a long way to reduce poverty and social inequality in our country.
But we also need to change our mindsets. Do we really need to still import bottled water from South Africa? The NSA says in May this year, the country imported bottled water worth N$39.8 million from that country.
As President Hage Geingob said yesterday, “we are still importing small things like potatoes that we can grow here ourselves”.
While we need to make a concerted effort to unshackle ourselves from South Africa’s growing uncertain
supply chain and easily disrupted manufacturing sector, we should not forget the similarities between us and our neighbour.
Like South Africa, we have rampant youth unemployment, a mass of poorly educated young people growing increasingly frustrated at the lack of jobs and affordable training opportunities, while we seem to have no solutions for their problems. With their energy levels and susceptibility to outside influence, we are sitting on a time bomb.
We also have an insufficient number of poorly paid,
unfit, poorly trained police force members incapable of handling any big onslaught of an organised and
coordinated attempt at destabilising the country.