Namibian Economics to the Point - November 2016
November was a particularly busy month in Namibia’s economic sector with the two-day international investment conference, a lively debate on planned phosphate mining, and new developments with regard to the land reform.
On 8 and 9 November the Namibian government hosted an international investment conference, which attracted about 1,770 participants, double the amount than expected. Approximately 400 delegates came from other countries. Guest of honour was the Minister of Economics, Science and Digital Society, Wolfgang Tiefensee of Germany’s federal state Thuringia with a delegation of 45 business people.
Namibia presented approximately 20 projects both from the public and the private sector ranging from infrastructure, housing, to tourism, solar and wind power and manufacturing. Cabinet ministers personally made presentations and participated in the panel discussions. President Hage Geingob attended most proceedings during the two days, which delegates regarded very highly.
At the end of Day Two, a local company, Otavi Rebar Manufacturing signed an investment agreement with South Korea’s M.K. International worth N$3,3 billion (approximately €220 million) to set up a reinforcing steel bar factory next year. The aim is to produce about 148,000 tonnes of rebar steel annually at Otavi, some 300 km north of Windhoek for Namibia’s construction sector. The company plans to employ about 800 people.
Another conference highlight was the display of a unique construction method with sand and resin to build low cost houses. Germany’s PolyCare Research Technology Company from Gehlberg, Thuringia, constructed a small show house on the conference premises with its special interlocking brick system made from sand and a special polymer resin. The construction team and the bricks, roofing et al were specially brought to Namibia for this purpose. Gerhard Dust, the company’s CEO said his company was interested to support Namibia’s mass housing programme for lower income earners, which is driven by the government. Namibia has a backlog of approximately 300,000 housing units for lower income groups. PolyCare plans to erect a factory at Okahandja, about 70 km north of Windhoek to manufacture its unique bricks. “Our system only requires sand and the polymer resin we have developed, no water and no cement is necessary,” Dust explained.
Minister Wolfgang Tiefensee said Thuringia was interested in cooperation with Namibia in the fields of housing, information technology (IT) and research. “Let us cooperate and define concrete projects,” Minister Tiefensee stated.
Marine phosphate mining
The local company Namibian Marine Phosphate (NMP) plans to mine phosphate from the ocean bed along Namibia’s coast. The fisheries industry is opposed to this, fearing the disturbance of fish breeding grounds, resulting in the decline of the industry. In October, it became known that the Environmental Commissioner had granted NMP and its Omani partner, Mawarid Mining LLC an environmental clearance certificate on 5 September already. Namibia’s Environmental Management Act allows appeals. One person appealed but the fishing industry took the matter to the High Court. In a sudden turn of events, Environment and Tourism Minister Pohamba Shifeta withdrew the clearance certificate on 2 November. “I withdraw it for 6 months, to allow for more consultations,” Shifeta announced. On 29 November the first and very brief court hearing took place, however the matter was postponed to 24 January 2017.
November was also a busy month for Namibia’s National Assembly before the summer recess. The Bill for the National Industrialisation and Development Agency (NIDA) was passed. It will transform the existing National Development Corporation (NDC) and broaden its mandate to push Namibia’s industrialisation.
The new Public-private Partnership Bill (PPP Bill) was also passed, paving the way for larger projects with regard to infrastructure, electricity generation and manufacturing among others. The aim of the government is to enter into partnerships with the private sector. A special PPP Unit has been established in the Ministry of Finance for this purpose.
A few days before the summer recess of the National Assembly, Land Reform Minster Utoni Nujoma introduced the long awaited, new Bill for agricultural and communal (rural) land. The Bill merges the existing Agricultural (Commercial) Land Reform Act of 1995 and the Communal Land Reform Act of 2002. After mainly Parliamentarians of the opposition parties criticised several shortcomings in the new draft, Minister Nujoma withdrew the Bill on 26 November. “It is our land and our Bill, we have to make a perfect story out of this,” Nujoma said. The Bill contains a paragraph that prohibits foreign land ownership. Foreigners may only lease land for 10 years, with a possibility of another 10 year-lease period. The opposition criticised among others that there had been a lack of consultation with them and traditional chiefs prior to the tabling of the Bill. Heritage of communal land for widows and orphans was missing and that women were left out in the Bill.
France gives N$675 million green credit
As mentioned in Gondwana’s Political Review for November, President Hage Geingob was in Paris and London for official visits end of November. One of the outcomes is a memorandum of understanding with the French Development Agency for a green credit line of N$675 million. The funds will finance bankable renewable energy, tourism businesses and sustainable agricultural projects in Namibia.
European Beer award
Namibia’s famous Windhoek Draught beer has been awarded a bronze medal during the European Beer Star Award in Nuremberg, Germany in November. The beer is brewed by Namibia Breweries Ltd (NBL). The company’s Head Brewer, Christian Müller said “only one beer of the same category is allowed to enter per brewery. Therefore only Windhoek Draught participated this year. Annually we rotate amongst Windhoek Lager, Tafel Lager and Windhoek Draught.”
The European Beer Star Awards is one of the most coveted awards on the international brewing scene. NBL beers have won several international awards over the years. NBL brews according to Germany’s 500 year old purity law of 1516.
Guide to the Namibian Economy
Namibia’s Institute for Public Policy Research published the fourth and updated edition of the book ‘Guide to the Namibian Economy 2017’. It is written by renowned British economist Robin Sherbourne, who spent some 20 years in Namibia. Sherbourne published the first edition in 2009. In 24 chapters the book provides a detailed and up to date overview of Namibia’s various economic sectors.