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Manufacturing remains catalyst for domestic growth…despite being devastated by pandemic impact

2021-11-17  Edgar Brandt

Manufacturing remains catalyst for domestic growth…despite being devastated by pandemic impact
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The impact of Covid-19 has been devastating on Namibian manufacturers as reduced economic activity and disrupted global supply lines wreaked havoc on the domestic capacity to produce. This severe impact was felt more by small and medium enterprises in the manufacturing sphere as many were forced to close their doors while bigger companies were better equipped to deal with the distressing consequences of the pandemic. 

According to Ronnie Varkevisser, CEO of the Namibian Manufacturers Association (NMA), manufacturing remains a catalyst for domestic economic growth despite Covid-19 taking a serious toll on the association and its membership base. During an exclusive interview with New Era, Varkevisser informed that the NMA lost various members since the advent of the pandemic, having a severe impact on their membership number. “Many of the bigger companies were able to diversify their production, with many producing masks and hand sanitizer, but the smaller players were left with no option but to either scale down or cease operations,” said Varkevisser. 

The overall impact of this state of affairs, said the NMA CEO, is that Namibia’s manufacturing base is “moving backwards” as some eight years ago the domestic manufacturing industry contributed an estimated 17% to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) compared to the current dismal 9%. 

“Support for the sector should be focused for Namibia to become an industrialised nation. However, the alignment of different ministries to achieve this goal is lacking,” Varkevisser lamented. To qualify this statement, he mentioned the Growth at Home strategy which he called “a brilliant document with sound policies”. But, Varkevisser questioned the implementation of the strategy, saying, “the execution is not taking place fast enough.”

“A case in point is the current situation of the Retail Charter and even the new Procurement Act. What is the current situation and what is the negative impact on local manufacturing growth because of slow execution? The manufacturing industry is suffering because of the slow implementation of these policies,” Varkevisser warned. 

During the one-on-one interview, the CEO also expressed concern about Namibia’s ability to benefit from the Africa Free Trade Agreement, saying much collaboration still needs to take place before individual countries can reap the fruits of this ambitious continental endeavour. “Issues such as the Rules of Origin in the African Free Trade agreement are still a huge factor. Most of this red tape still needs to be eliminated before manufacturers in Namibia and on the continent can truly see the benefits from this agreement,” said Varkevisser. 

The NMA has been described as a major player in influencing the formulation of government policies, particularly those that directly affect manufacturers. These include manufacturing incentives, work permits, national development policies, Growth at Home, etc. 

 In this regard, the NMA also endeavours to influence curriculum development and manufacturing related courses at tertiary institutions for the benefit of the industry and maintains a close working relationship with various relevant stakeholders in this regard. 

The NMA has been in existence since 1994 (and was registered as a section 21 company in 2002) and is thus intimately familiar with the Namibian manufacturing sector, the business environment and all involved stakeholders. 

“It is our constant input to all relevant industry topics that have earned NMA wide recognition not only from its members and other private sector organisations but also from our line Ministry which is the Ministry of Industrialisation and Trade,” said Varkevisser. 

At the beginning of August this year, representatives of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and NMA presented trophies to winners of the first-ever Namibia Exporter of the Year Awards where local firm, Plastic Packaging scooped the top honours. At the event, Varkevisser reiterated the NMA’s commitment to continuing the partnership with the USAID in staging the annual awards going forward.

  “The exporter awards are an important milestone in recognising the valuable work that export firms play in Namibia, and we are glad to partner with the USAID TradeHub in this regard and look forward to our future collaboration to grow the awards.”

2021-11-17  Edgar Brandt

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