• June 19th, 2019
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“It’s called picking winners”: Amupanda on Shilongo Leather project

Reporter Onesmus Embula seeks clarity on a scheme, christened Project1000, that activist and academic Job Amupanda is spearheading. It seeks to have 1000 pairs of shoes bought from Shilongo Leather, a Namibian manufacturing company specialising in leather products.

Q: Briefly, what does Project1000 entails?
A: Project1000 entails a target that we have set together with our friends and those who believe in our program of economic freedom. We have identified Shilongo Leather as a start of supporting indigenous industrialisation. We want to ensure that we mobilse likeminded youth and adults to buy Namibian produced, owned and sold shoes. 
Q:  What inspired your call to government for Shilongo Leather shoes to be enacted as official school uniform?
A: Presently our economy is bleeding because the [government] chose to pursue neoliberal economic path. From treasury, economic leaders and to the general orientation of the [government], neoliberalism dominates economic thought. For the purposes of clarity neoliberalism is an economic model that advocates for every man for himself and god for all of us. To a neoliberal mind, the state must play a minimalistic role in the economy and allow the imaginary hand of the market to determine reward. Of course this has failed in the global political economy. Even in the crude capitalist societies such as the US, they have learnt that it is rubbish and irresponsible not to intervene in the economy and instead allow reactionary, undemocratic and ghost-like things called markets to determine the economic life of a nation. As such, if government can allow Namibian companies to produce things such as shoes and uniforms for the 700 000 learners in schools then we are on a right path with industrialisation. Vultures such as Pep [Store] are not concerned with the growth and development of our country. There is profit. It is part of an interventionist state character that we wish our country to assume in order for us to become a truly developmental state. 
Q: Why Shilongo Leather specifically, considering that there are other local shoe dealers or perhaps garment outlets fighting to break through the market?
A: Shilongo Leather is a black-owned formidable and consistent enterprise that has won a number of manufacturer awards. I am not the only one to see their strength. People involved in industrial development have already assessed them and found them to be the best. I am simply affirming them. I have no family or business connection to Shilongo Leather but I have seen their work. Further, they employ young people who are happy and have shared with me their dream of seeing this company grow so that they do not lose their job in a country where enterprises closes faster than a lightening.  
Q: What do you make of infant industry protection vs conflict of interest? 
A: The white [producers] of chicken were given Infant Industry Protection [status]. It is the same with Ohorongo Cement initially. In any case, the IIP is not granted to a company but to a sector. Once granted, everyone is free to participate. But you must start somewhere and so far it is only Shilongo Leather that has impressed us. In political economy a call for support for a particular entrepreneur has worked successfully in history. It is called picking winners. The Korean government picked Samsung and supported the company to its greatness. The [Thabo] Mbeki government did the same with MTN when it moved into Africa. Picking winners is the method that has worked and can work with Shilongo Leather.  There should be no one jealous of the support that we are giving to Shilongo Leather. If they work hard we will also come pick them up. 
Q: Anything else you wish to and or share?
A: The developmental state requires bold and interventionist decisions. If we do not intervene decisively, 90 percent of the economy will remain in the hands of whites that are less than six percent of the population. If we do not intervene, we will keep importing things the same way we are importing 70 percent of our food items. We call on all fearless youth and adults alike to buy Shilongo Leather shoes for their children and put in leave of absence at Jet, Pep and other [foreign] shops. 

New Era Reporter
2018-10-15 09:05:10 8 months ago

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