Four business parks in the Hardap region, developed by government to provide infrastructure to small businesses, are gathering dust as little to no business activity is taking place.
The facilities cost taxpayers a whopping N$43 million to construct. The small and medium sized business parks are found in Gochas, Gibeon, Hoachanas, and Kalkrand.
Residents now complain these parks are deserted, serving as hot spots for drug use and other ilicit activities, instead of fulfilling their intended purpose.
A resident in Gochas, speaking on condition of anonymity, told New Era that due to the absence of business in the area, young people involved in illicit activities, such as drug use, are now using the area.
“If you pass here at night, you will see so many movements of young people entering this place, just to enjoy their life. You will find them smoking and loitering here. This is a waste of government resources,” she said.
The failure to meet expectations is attributed to high rental costs and bureaucratic hurdles in stall allocation, leaving the business parks as white elephants. The centres were constructed by the Namibia Industrial Development Agency (NIDA), under the auspices of the trade ministry. Last week, New Era visited the parks, which were constructed in 2015 to help SMEs tap into the lucrative tourism market of the region.
Years later, cracked windows, broken doors and “closed” notices greet any visitor to these sites.
The amount was confirmed by NIDA regional manager Andre Izaacks.
NIDA is the custodian of these infrastructures built with taxpayers’ money. The newspaper observed massive damages and vandalism on these fully equipped facilities, boasting amenities such as a coffee shop, internet café, supermarket, bed and breakfast, laundry, braai areas, and trading stalls.
Izaacks confirmed to New Era that the total amount spent on the four parks in the region is N$42.5 million. However, he refused to provide further details and referred the questions to the public relations officer, Wessel Nanuseb. “The four facilities are worth N$42.5 million; however, you can channel all queries to Mr Nanuseb,” said Izaacks.
Questions sent to Nanuseb were not answered at the time of going to print.
He, however, acknowledged receiving questions. “I acknowledge receipt of your query. Given the volume of information to be provided, it is regrettable that we are not in a position to meet your deadline of tomorrow,” he said.
New Era also made attempts to obtain comments from the trade ministry, of which Elijah Mukubonda also acknowledged receiving the questions.
The situation has become dire, with the Gochas Business Park experiencing disconnection of electricity and water by the Gochas Village Council due to unpaid services amounting to N$124 164.96. The acting CEO, Paulina Eiseb, explained that the services were disconnected after the entity failed to pay despite several reminders.
“The building owed the council over N$100 000, and services are now disconnected. I know they have once made a payment of N$55 689, and the outstanding amount is now N$124 164,” she explained.
The acting CEO further explained that residents are vandalising the property due to the lack of security and proper supervision at the site. Vandalism has also plagued the park due to the absence of security and proper supervision, leaving some areas, including the supermarket and coffee shop, in ruins. Currently, the only operational business at the park is a betting shop.
Moreover, numerous residents have expressed frustration with the stall allocation process, reporting that despite applying for stalls and attending interviews for the past four years, they receive no feedback or are told that the stalls have already been allocated.
“I submitted more than three applications to put up a shop here. I was not approved, and I do not understand why the allocation of stalls is a challenge,” she said, refusing to provide her name for fear of victimisation.
However, many locals opine and suggest that stalls should be given to individuals genuinely committed to making their businesses thrive, as many people only operate a business for about two months and vacate the premises due to a lack of customers.
In Gibeon, only the accommodation facility remains operational, while the rest of the park’s facilities stand vacant. According to the chairperson of the Gibeon Village Council, Shanon Bezuidenhout, the park’s location is a significant issue. The remote placement of the park, situated behind the town, has made it less accessible to community members.
Brenda Windstaan, a resident of Gibeon, points out that high rental costs have discouraged local entrepreneurs from renting stalls at Gibeon Business Park due to prevalent unemployment. She suggests that making the rent more affordable would allow individuals to utilise the facility for starting businesses like hair or nail salons.
The residents urge authorities to address the high rental costs, streamline the allocation process, and consider strategic location choices to invigorate economic activities in the Hardap region. -email@example.com