Entrepreneur and founder of VNA Native Foods, Valde Ndapwilwa Akumanga Leonard says Namibia is capable of producing its own food and not rely on imported goods too much, an avenue the youth should tap into to make a living for themselves.
The 26-year-old Outapi-born Leonard expressed this at the masterclass hosted by MindQuest Africa, which focuses on young Namibians unleashing their potential. Leonard founded VNA Native Foods in 2017, and resigned as a veterinarian nurse the flowing year to focus on his company that became fully operational in 2020.
VNA Native Foods specialises in adding value to local food, specifically to wild spinach, otherwise known as ‘Omboga’ in the Oshiwambo language and ‘Omboua’ in Otjiherero. VNA Native Foods is situated in the northern industrial area of Windhoek, and employs three workers.
“I decided to rather add value to spinach, so I had to look at something that Namibians love other than spinach, which is pounded soup, and I decided to add the two together, which is adding value to it,” detailed Leonard.
His biggest suppliers of the leafy green flowery plant are small-scale farmers mostly in the northern parts of Namibia.
The products are sold at Namica in Okuryangava and Spar chains in Khomasdal, Hochland Park, Maerua and Grove Mall. The green light has been given for VNA
Native Foods to be sold in Shoprite.
The former vet nurse added that most food products that are currently imported, can be made here. One of the easiest ways to penetrate the market is through foodstuff, which can be done
from any kitchen.
“These other nations will continue flooding the Namibian market [with their goods]. We as the youth should approach investors and give our ideas, which they can fund.”
He urged young Namibians to be ready and have business plans on standby for when the time comes to present their ideas to potential investors.
Leonard, who suffers from muscular dystrophy, said living with a disability is one of the obstacles he constantly fights to make it into the entrepreneurial world or to continue with this journey.
Muscular dystrophy is a group of inherited diseases that damage and weaken one’s muscles over time, which is caused by the lack of a protein called dystrophin, necessary for normal muscle function. This ultimately causes problems with walking, swallowing, and muscle coordination.
Leonard has two siblings who are living with the same disability and early this month, they lost their sister to it.
“It is hard for me as a disabled person; my condition requires a lot of rest. I have to do HR, marketing, etc. I can get someone to do it for me, but I would have to pay them and the funds are not there for that right now. That personal challenge is there.”
Leonard said when he gets a large order of the product, he will make sure to get casual employees.
“I am hoping in the coming months or years when the business picks up, to have a full-time staff complement of, let us say, 10 people but for now, I will keep on using the casual system to keep afloat.”
He considers himself lucky and hardworking and credits the Development Bank of Namibia (DBN) for assisting him in getting his business off the ground.
In 2018, he won one million dollars through the DBN’s Innovation Award, which was invested in product development, market research, and setting up a small factory.