According to local manufacturer, James Tjilondelo owner of GNC Trading, it is difficult for manufacturers to enter into the market as local retailers often prefer South African products because of the mentality that Namibian made products are not good enough. "The market is tight, South African products are dominating our own markets whilst our own people are also manufacturing the very same goods."
Tjilondelo told the Economist that retailers often call South Africa for quality approval before their products are shelved which hinders them from making it to the consumers on a broad platform.
After being unemployed for three years, James decided to go into the business of manufacturing toilet paper, a dream that has always been at the back of his mind. "I've always wanted to venture into the toilet paper manufacturing sector because there is a huge gap that can be filled as toilet paper is a basic necessity, so I had confidence in the concept and I know this company can provide a lot of employment to our people in the near future."
He said that although embarking into the manufacturing industry is a big risk, due to the lack of market, the country however needs entrepreneurs and society at large to invest in the manufacturing industry as it leads to self reliance and also reduces the high unemployment rate.
"When I began the factory, starting off capital was firstly a major problem and even after I bought machinery and received an order from the government, institutes such as the Development Bank of Namibia were hesitant to fund me and as a result, I missed my first deadline because I didn't have enough money to buy the materials for production."
Tjilondelo said that rather than nursing sme's, "the Development Bank of Namibia is killing us, the only advantage to them is their interest rates other than that, they are like any other commercial bank."
In May last year, he opened his toilet paper factory in Okahandja joining about eight other toilet paper producers around the country and said that regardless of the setbacks in the market, business is fairing well. "This is a good business because once you get an order, you can get a lot of things done."
GNC Trading makes soft tissue toilet paper from jumbo rolls, imported from South Africa which he converts, cuts and wraps into one or two-ply toilet papers.
"We make both single and double ply toilet paper but because two-ply toilet paper is much costly, we mostly make one ply toilet paper."
Tjilondelo said that the government store is their biggest client as they buy and resell the toilet paper to different departments and Ministries.
The initial production target of the company is 20,000 rolls a day but have recently heavily cut down on production as sales are slow. "We have to work according to demand otherwise we will be wasting resources." The toilet paper is currently only sold in the Katutura township, Okahandja as well as in the Northern parts of the country.