Namibia Economist (Windhoek)

Namibia: Industrialisation for Oranjemund

For the first time in Oranjemund's history, visitors can visit the town without personal invitation this weekend, 07 to 09 December for the first annual Diamond Festival. Entertainment, sports, fun, stalls with all kind of crafts and goods, the introduction of "Miss Diamond 2012" and a diamond raffle are among the highlights.

Oranjemund was established for the sole purpose of supporting the mining industry at the town and not much effort was made to develop it. But after the southern town achieved town status last year, the council is making strides to develop Oranjemund.

"Oranjemund was just used as a refreshment station for the mining industry, i.e. it just supported the mining industry and wasn't necessarily developed. But when the town management company was created in 2004, we said we wanted development as we were concerned that diamond mining was dwindling.

"We were mindful of the continued existence and sustainability of Oranjemund after diamond mining ceases. We are also mindful [about what health and school facilities] would be in place after diamond mining," says Eliphas Iita, regional councillor of the Oranjemund constituency.

Iita says the town has much potential and major developmental projects are already in the pipeline.

"There is huge potential here. We are inviting both local and international people to come and invest in Oranjemund. Their money will be safe. Oranjemund is now on the country's map, the investors should just come," Iita adds.

The upgrading of the road between Rosh Pinah and Oranjemund, the establishment of a state hospital and school as well as several shops are some of the major investment opportunities the town council is now exploring.

"There are projects lined up and the first one includes the upgrading of the road linking us to Rosh Pinah. We want it upgraded to bitamen standards. A state school will also be established here and its construction will start next year. The school will start operating in 2014; we will start with a primary school which will cater for 500 learners. We also have a shipwreck at the mine which is being conserved. The idea is to bring it to town so that it can be viewed by tourists," the councillor explains.

In order to diversify the town's economic activities, an aqua farm was established on 18 February this year and negotiations with Shoprite are also at an advanced stage.

"They are willing to come and set-up a shop here in Oranjemund. We have also consulted with Ministry of Health and Social Services to establish a state hospital and in that regard; Namdeb has also given funding to upgrade the existing public health facilities. We are also in talks with tour operators so that they can set-up operations here. Mining is an exciting venture and tourists can visit mining operations and travel through the Sperrgebiet National Park, which was a restricted area in the past," Iita says.

Other developments in the pipeline include the establishment of a fish shop by the Namibian Fish Consumption Trust, the set-up of an energy shop in collaboration with the Polytechnic of Namibia, as well as a retirement village.

"Governor [Clinton] Swartbooi and I are also in talks with people from Dubai to establish a harbour which is 24 meters deep I think it will be even deeper than the Lüderitz harbour. Tourism can also play a huge role in diversifying the town's economy as we have a Ramsar site here which is an important breeding ground for diverse bird species. This site can also be an attraction for tourists," says Iita.

He added that there are a number of activities which tourists can also engage in.

"I have to boast that you cannot compare Oranjemund to Keetmanshoop, not at all. Infrastructure wise and economic development wise, Oranjemund is better off. Even more Oranjemund residents are employed than those of Keetmanshoop. The buying power is in Oranjemund," Iita says.

He believes Oranjemund can become industrialised.

"It needs hard work but I think Oranjemund can become an industrialised town. There are many development opportunities in the south. The area is very rich we just need to work harder," Iita concludes.

Oranjemund was first established in 1936 and has 4000 inhabitants. The town is situated in the extreme southwest of Namibia, on the northern bank of the Orange River mouth.

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