Industrialisation minister Lucia Iipumbu has urged Namibia to consider revisiting priority economic areas, considering hard lessons learned from the prevailing Covid-19 pandemic.
She made these remarks yesterday while engaging in a discussion on the impact of Covid-19 on the domestic economy in Windhoek.
“Agriculture, especially horticulture, is a priority sector to boost local production that can solve the food security issue and reduce reliance on imports for consumable supplies,” she said.
“Furthermore, there is a need to increase local value addition to our raw materials for self-reliance and export. It would be important to consider renewing the ongoing partnerships and solicit new partnerships that can assist Namibia to fight the pandemic.”
Namibia, like many other countries, finds itself in the clutches of a global pandemic that threatens to destroy all aspects and development gains achieved while adversely affecting all sectors of the economy.
Iipumbu said the massive losses of employment and income due to the pandemic has intensified hunger and poverty.
She added disruptions in key economic sectors have weakened demand for intermediate inputs, base metals and minerals, leading to sharp declines in their price.
Manufacturing firms are facing a sharp decline in exports amidst falling demand.
She further said Namibia has negotiated a wider and comprehensive market opportunity through the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
“This is a good opportunity for Namibian manufacturing companies to venture into other lucrative African markets to gain the much-needed earnings in the country and enhance economic growth,” said the minister.
Some of the negative impacts of the pandemic on the implementation of AfCFTA Iipumbu outlined the border closure and travel bans placed by key and emerging African economies, which have impacted trade within the continent.
“The demand for essential commodities such as pharmaceutical and agricultural products has weakened export in the face of measures adopted by governments to manage the spread of the virus. By implication, the demand for essential commodities is on the increase, resulting in its scarcity, which ultimately results in a hike in prices,” she stated.
According to Iipumbu, trade liberalisation is expected to improve economic activities with the AfCFTA in terms of trade and investment.
She revealed that to date, all negotiations on tariff concessions are moving at a snail pace due to the pandemic, as countries are more focused on saving lives and preserving livelihoods.
“This creates uncertainties for developing economies like Namibia, as tariffs form a huge percentage of their revenue. Such uncertainties cannot be negotiated at a pace required to foster trade liberalisation, as the pandemic has paused all forms of contact and collaborations in negotiating key aspects of Phase I, which is Rules of Origin (RoO) and schedules of tariff concession that are necessary for trading under the agreement to begin,” she mentioned.
The minister believes RoO is a critical issue that requires prompt negotiations to determine which products can be exempted from tariffs.
Negotiations on Phase II protocols such as competition policy, investments and intellectual properties are also expected to be affected equally.
Overall, she believes the pandemic is an opportunity for Namibia and Africa to see themselves differently and the world to consider the African continent as a partner in finding solutions to complex problems such as Covid-19.
“While this crisis may be another challenging time for Namibia, there is a chance to become more autonomous and self-reliant. This will be the time to lay the foundations of economic reforms that give priority to African markets, innovation and local manufacturing. This is a good time to start implementing the AfCFTA,” she concluded.