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Opinion - Ramatex: The suitable premises for innovation and entrepreneurship

2021-11-12  Staff Reporter

Opinion - Ramatex: The suitable premises for innovation and entrepreneurship
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On 27 November this year, a local newspaper has reported that ‘Smile’, the locally produced condoms, have disappeared from the shelves after the factory existed for merely 15 years. 

The “safety” factory was not only producing the products for the local market, but it also exported to the neighbouring countries. 

The closure of the factory had me pondering, as the organisational structure consisted of more than 30 employees, who would face the conundrum of unemployment and scavenge for other job opportunities within the already saturated job market.

It is not arguable that the Covid-19 pandemic has led to the closure of several factories and/or industries worldwide – and Namibia is not an exception.

While some closures are temporary, others are permanent.

Since March this year, more than 14 500 people lost their jobs as reported by a local statistics agency. 

The dilemma continues in many sectors, such as retailers, manufacturers and others, as industries struggle to recover from the prevailing and aftermath of the pandemic.  

The manufacturing segment is one of the major economic growing tools in most countries, as it is important for the economy to advance and prosper, which leads to enhanced standards of living in the countries as well as for the countries to compete in the global market. 

Any increase in production leads to economic growth as measured by the GDP.

The fact that Namibia is a relatively small population, with copiousness of natural resources and thousands of untapped opportunities, it is exasperating to read and see the skyrocketing of job loss, people living below the poverty line and the closure of manufacturing workshops after being operational for few years. 

At 31 years of independence, Namibia should have a blossoming economy, at the peak of innovation, with an integral commercial landscape and social stability. 

It is a known fact that many African countries are the sources of industrialisation in continents such as Europe, Asia and America.

Namibia, with plenty of natural resources such as diamonds, uranium, zinc, gold and others, has no single factory that either manufactures doors, door frames and window frames – not to mention the manufacturing of corrugated iron from zinc deposits, mined from Rosh Pinah or gold materials from the deposits mined by B2Gold in Otjiwarongo. 

All these resources are being shipped out for final production and shipped back to Namibia and other African countries, priced exorbitantly. 

Namibia has been independent for over 30 years – and in the last two decades, the country should have tapped into many sectors for sustainable business opportunities – and so that many goods and products would not be imported, such as earbuds and toothpicks.

Given our resources, the woodlands are near our fingertips. 

Namibians (policymakers and decision-makers) need to understand the country does not need external supports, foreign investors or finances to improve and advance its economic ground, but what is needed is an enabling business environment, friendly to innovators and entrepreneurs – and an allocation of capital where required.

In 2002, Ramatex, a textile division, started operations in Namibia with several textile plants in Otjomuise. 

The garment factory invested around N$150 million, and created approximately 10 000 jobs. 

The garment factory turned cotton into textiles meant for the USA market. 

This was considered to be one of the biggest investments in Namibia – and after almost three years in operations, the textile factory came to halt, as the investors have ceased and later abandoned the operations, citing continuous complaints from employees due to labour anomalies and several labour strikes that were taking place. 

After all, the well-structured business premises became once in five or six years a boxing arena, the abode of stray dogs, cats, insects and wild pets. 

Namibia has many vocational trainees or technicians who can change the economic playground of the country through entrepreneurship. 

Our technical training institutions such as NIMT and VTCs provide best practice programs: clothing, boiler making, electrical, mechanics and others that can supply the future needs of Namibia’s industries. 

These technicians, with the support of various institutions, can turn Ramatex into the production or fabrication factories of various items such as doors, gates, window frames, chairs, tables, beds, and many others. 

There will be no need to procure these items from neighbouring countries for many local tenders, such as previous mass housing schemes. 

There are many SMEs doing creative and industry’s class works, and the support and recognition to them is still a far-fetched dream.  

These firms can be assisted in areas such as capital, work environment and training schemes to help boost their capacity.  

The supports should build the level of innovation through the creation of advanced manufacturing clusters, networks and partnerships. 

There should be transformations of Ramatex factories into a world-class production facility, setting up business units – and if possible, to include more technology-enabled smart manufacturing processes, which are sustainable and resilient. 

There should be greater assistance to SMEs from regulatory authorities to help the SMEs and local manufacturers to connect with local and global supply chains. 

To capacitate this sector, there should be a call for fiscal reform to transform the taxation system and reduce regulatory and structural costs that impede innovation and new venture creation. 

Entrepreneurs are the backbones of the economy; they create a vision and the action steps needed to design the production process. 

They combine all the factors of production, including buying the property and raw materials, as well as employing and investing in the capital goods necessary to bring finished products to market. 

One wonders what City of Windhoek, the government and other institutions have in their minds when they pass by such infrastructure. The decoration or symbol of a once upon a time failed investment?

There must be an investment in the idle Ramatex infrastructure initiatives, such as turning the plants into SME production workshops, ranging from fabrication, tailoring, value addition factories, and many others. 

Do we have to import condoms made from India when we already have expertise that has been providing the same product for fifteen years? 

Such is a riant arrangement.  

Those who fought for economic emancipation and did not live to see these days should be turning angrily in their graves. 

 *Leonard Kanime is a Certified Capital Market Professional with India Stock Exchange. He holds a Master of Business Administration from Assam Don Bosco University, India, and a Master’s Degree in Mass Communication from Tezpur University, India. He writes in his personal capacity.


2021-11-12  Staff Reporter

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