The devastating impact of Covid-19 has turned lives upside down in every conceivable sector and industrialisation and trade was no exception. To offset the distressing impact of the pandemic the Ministry of Industrialisation and Trade (MIT) says it remains committed to deliver on its mandate and has thus embarked on a number of developments to enhance a conducive working environment for business.
Responding to questions from New Era, Deputy Executive Director at MIT, Michael Humavindu, stated that amendments were made to existing legislation to allow crucial business to operate as ‘Essential Service Providers for much-needed services.
“Working with our development partners, the ministry rolled out the Katutura StartUp Centre. Enrolling 120 Start-Ups of which 80% are female, we provided 600 Covid-19 Start-Up Grants of N$15 000 each for a total of N$9 million that was disbursed to mostly informal Micro Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) and we distributed 1 600 personal protective equipment (PPE) kits to informal economy operators across the 14 regions of our country,” said Humavindu.
With the support of the European Union (EU) through the SADC Trade Related Facility, some 45 Namibian firms were capacitated through the Industrial Upgrading and Modernisation Scheme to a total value of N$11.3 million.
With key partners, MIT also launched the Sustainable Development Goals Impact Facility through which it disbursed N$2.5 million to 32 entities during December 2020.
Said Humavindu: “The implementation of the ‘Retail Charter’ and the GS1 accredited Bar Code Centre is very vital to ensure that Namibian products find shelf space in local retail shops and enhance traceability of locally manufactured goods.”
Moreover, the Namibia Competition Commission launched the National Competition Policy 2020–2025, which Humavindu said policy can be broadly defined as a governmental policy that promotes or maintains the level of competition in the market.
MIT also committed to interventions to encourage a conducive working environment for local businesses. Specifically, programmes were designed to assist small and micro enterprises withstand the worst of the Covid 19 pandemic, such as the StartUp Survival Grant, SDG Impact Facility, SADC Trade Related Facility.
“The ministry continues to witness progress in the implementation of the key programmes under the office aimed at contributing towards economic development and job creation including various interventions supported by key polices and regulatory framework relating to industrialisation, trade and investment promotion. Through this promotion, MIT aims to attract foreign direct investment to Namibia, lure various investors to the country to inject capital into sectors such as water, energy, agriculture, transportation, affordable housing, tourism, manufacturing, etc. The aim of attracting investment is to stimulate economic growth and job creation while addressing urgent and pressing socio-economic and development needs.
Humavindu emphasised that agencies, as implementing arms of MIT, need urgent reforms and realignment to foster industrial development projects to create job opportunities, to grow the economy and to create jobs for Namibians.
The aim, said the deputy ED, is to enhance participation of Namibian SMEs in the mainstream industrial value chains by ensuring they derive maximum benefits from foreign direct investments. As an example, MIT intends to promote a charcoal sector growth project to contribute to inclusive and sustainable industrial development. To this end, 11 SMEs were trained last year in the full charcoal value chain and in March 2021, another 10 will receive training, with the aim to train 100 SMEs along the full biomass value chain.
Meanwhile, Humavindu noted that government recognises the vital role that the Small and Micro Enterprises play in the socio-economic development of Namibia. Hence, through its Sites and Premises Programme, MIT continues to honour its mandate of providing a conducive business environment by developing business and industrial infrastructure such as multi-purpose SME building blocks, industrial parks and common facility centre.
Said Humavindu: “At present, they are 44 parks in total across the country inclusive of industrial parks and SME parks. Despite needing minor renovations, the parks are functional. The ministry is currently pursuing to complete building an industrial park in Tsumeb, but with no budget allocation, many capital projects lay in wait without hope of being advanced. However, the project is receiving priority.”
He stated that all 44 parks are fully occupied by local SME’s, with the ministry helping them to establish their businesses by subsidising rental. This, said Humavindu, has enabled businesses to continue operating during the difficult period of the pandemic.
On the ministry’s recurring theme of the “Growth at Home” concept, Humavindu stated that strategy and initiative underpin the importance of accelerating economic growth and increasing employment.
“It places greater emphasis on the significance of industrialisation by strengthening national value chains and creating more efficient linkages within the economy, improvements in the ease doing of business and ongoing engagement of collaboration between government and private sector. In the area of industrial development, significant gains have been made towards implementing the Industrial Policy especially the identified 10 sector growth strategies. The Industrial Upgrading and Modernisation Programme (IUMP) has also begun to yield positive results following the successful funding provision to various enterprises across the country,” Humavindu added. Furthermore, the Integrated Client Services Facility, which many refer to as the ‘One Stop Shop’ that was under development for so many years was official launched in December 2020 and was rolled out to all 14 regions of the country.
The much-awaited facility aims to encourage the ease of doing business in Namibia through streamlining procedures; faster work visa and work permit processing; e-service delivery globally, efficient business, tax, employer and employee registration; and scalable to include other permit or license registrations. Core stakeholders extensively engaged and on-board are the Business and Intellectual Property Authority (BIPA), Ministry of Finance (MoF), Ministry of Home Affairs and Immigration (MHAI), Office of the Prime Minister (OPM), and Social Security Commission (SSC). All parties involved are housed under a single roof.
“Therefore, the public and business community are encouraged to seize the unique opportunity to embrace technological advancements to easy related application and retrieval of information provided by the one-stop-shop, database and other related tools in aiding simplicity to business operations,” Humavindu concluded.