In the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic as the number of deaths reached alarming proportions, Namibia was forced to import millions of dollars’ worth of coffins in a single month. However, the trade ministry’s assessment has confirmed that local coffin production capacity does now exist, with over 50 local manufacturers producing a combined daily average of 860 coffins.
According to trade ministry spokesperson Elijah Mukubonda, available import data confirms very little integration within the sectoral value chain, resulting in inadequate sectoral development.
Earlier this year due to the rise in Covid-19 deaths, Namibia anticipated a shortage of coffins as funeral homes seemed overwhelmed in trying to keep up with demand. Covid-19-related deaths, together with joblessness and a decrease in salaries, were taking a financial toll not only on families, but also on the coffin production industry. Consequently, coffin manufacturers sought help from government to better serve the public during the pandemic and beyond.
In this regard, the Ministry of Industrialisation and Trade (MIT) was assigned to assess the country’s existing local capability to manufacture coffins by geographical location, as well as to identify possible Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) as well as youth enterprises in each region with the potential to manufacture coffins.
Furthermore, Cabinet directed the trade ministry to develop and submit a feasible business plan on a Local Coffins and Caskets Manufacturing Scheme to be submitted to the labour ministry for onward transmission to the Social Security Commission for funding consideration.
Further interaction with local manufacturers indicated that coffins procured locally only take on average a day or three at most to be manufactured. This provides ample time for any necessary provisions.
“MIT is currently busy with the development of the business plan - a scheme to facilitate and promote backward linkages between local producers and major funeral undertakers, while ensuring local value-addition on our timber from the country’s northeastern regions,” Mukubonda explained.
The proposed business model projects MIT as the convener and coordinator of the coffin project’s implementation. The entire business model is anchored around market access for local coffins and casket manufacturers through regulated backward linkages among the industry players.
The main objectives of the business model are to support local manufacturers, promote backward linkages through standards and price regulations, as well as to protect and grow the local industry.
Said Mukubonda: “MIT will steer the process, by collaborating with other Ministries and agencies, to ensure the completion of the project”.