The Namibian Retail Sector Charter was signed off on 11 March 2016 as a voluntary tool to help transform the retail sector from one that relies predominantly on imports to one that gives preference to local manufactures by promoting the sourcing of local products by retailers.
Encapsulated in the charter was the aim to, as a start, focus on three industries, namely: hardware, fast-moving and consumable goods as well as clothing and textiles.
After its inception and sign off, the Namibia Trade Forum embarked on the crucial work of understanding the retail and distribution sector seeking to unpack market access bottlenecks in the sector as a means to help facilitate interventions. Further, a scorecard was created as a means to measure performance by the retailers.
However, according to Stacey Pinto, CEO of the Namibia Trade Forum, the main challenge in implementing Namibia’s Retail Sector Charter is varying business types and models – and so for each are varying procurement models.
“This requires specific technical capacity to work with such varying institutions to explore the transition process of procuring more local products. The other challenge is simply the availability of diverse goods on the market. In order for increased local procurement, there ought to be the availability of such products on the market – and this is an area we are still trying to get right as a country. Last but not least, the area of standards (quality) is one we continue to help address with institutions such as the NSi (Namibia Standards Institute) to try and ensure our products reach the standards necessary for consumers – both locally and internationally,” said Pinto in response to questions from New Era.
Pinto added the Namibia Retail Sector Charter has come quite a long way since its inception.
“We are looking forward to incorporating more sectors, institutions and retailers in the coming year, as we truly believe in the impact this will create, especially at MSME level. We look forward to a Namibia that is food-sufficient (in as far as it can and is competitively viable) as well as seeing a retail sector that takes in as much quality, locally produced goods as possible – and, in turn, helping create jobs and grow our economy,” Pinto stated.
Thus far, over 15 firms across the three key sectors have signed up to the charter. But, as the charter is at present a voluntary tool, it is not mandatory for all retail to outlets sign up – but they are encouraged to do so in support of the aims of the charter.
Pinto explained the reasons for the voluntary nature of the charter are centred around the fact that not all businesses are the same – and as such, have different value chain models, which, in most instances, are not easy to change and take time to transition as the charter requires.
Said Pinto: “This is why the charter was introduced first as a voluntary tool to allow space for this kind of transition to occur. It was also to allow our productive capacity to improve and reach suitable standards. As such, to firms who have not yet signed up, we continue to offer a support function as they look to incorporate local sourcing into their models”.
The NTF CEO continued that in terms of success, great strides have been witnessed at sourcing local in the horticulture and fresh produce sectors with the effect being the creation of more jobs at production and distribution levels.
“We have also noted a surge in the local procurement of self-care products, food and beverage. We are currently relooking at the monitoring mechanism to ensure we can collate real-time information on how many local products are in the market. It is also important to note that the measurement of the success charter is not only based on the number of local products on the shelf but critically also the work we do to help create an enabling retail environment that takes in more locally produced goods,” Pinto stated.
Key milestones based on the objectives of the Retail Sector Charter:
Buy Local Grow Namibia Campaign: This campaign was launched in October 2020 by trade minister Lucia Iipumbu and partners. It was tailored to help create the culture of buying local first to grow the local economy, especially so as a means to help boost economic recovery after the onslaught of Covid-19.
Since the launch of the campaign and the subsequent launch of phase II in Rundu by Vice President Nangolo Mbumba, there has been an increase in locally sourced products on the shelve, with some retailers reporting an average of 80% local procurement, especially in horticultural products. Phase II of the campaign is focused on helping build capacity for local producers by helping them understand market entry requirements such as standards (quality), packaging, barcoding, etc.
For phase II of the campaign, the NTF partnered with the Namibia Standards Institute, the Namibia Agronomic Board, the Development Bank of Namibia, the NIPDB, GS1 Namibia and retailers to help local producers along the journey of accessing the local retail space.
GS1 Namibia: A barcode is one of the most crucial items to have in place before one can access the market, excluding the importance of standards, packaging, etc. Because of the benchmarking work of the Retail Charter, the Namibia Barcode Centre was implemented. The centre is now known as GS1 Namibia; it administers a Namibian prefixed barcode.
This has been a long-awaited piece of work, which will go a long way in the journey but also ensure our products are traceable on the global market.
Namibia’s e-commerce assessment: the Namibia Trade Forum, with support from EU Rise, an EU-funded facility, recently launched an e-commerce readiness assessment for Namibia to help explore this market access option for local products. The result of this assessment will give us an indication of how we are doing as a country on e-commerce and what type of interventions need to be made to help establish e-commerce as an alternative market option for local producers.