New Era (Windhoek)

4 February 2013

Namibia: Oshikango Endures Hard Times

Oshakati — The Namibia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NCCI) has organised a major conference in an effort to revive the economy of the northern border town of Oshikango whose economy has nose-dived.

In a letter date January 15, 2013, addressed to various stakeholders, the NCCI's northern branch chairperson Tomas Iindji said the ongoing decline of the economy of Helao Nafidi is dragging the area slowly but surely towards a crisis.

Oshikango, which falls within the boundaries of the Helao Nafidi Town Council, was once a popular and thriving business centre. Now, based on observations and regular complaints from businesspeople at the town, Oshikango is gradually turning into a ghost town and thousands of people have already lost their jobs as dozens, if not hundreds of businesses have closed down.

Oshikango was a lucrative and attractive business centre not only for locals, but attracted Chinese, Indian, South African, Portuguese, Pakistani and Iranian traders among others who set up shop at the border town with ventures that primarily targeted the Angolan market.

Now that the Angolan economy is recovering following years of civil war, many businesses have relocated across the border. Abandoned buildings testify to the decline of business at Oshikango.

"If you come to Oshikango today, you will find many, many trucks queuing up at the border. Based on that, one would think that Oshikango is very busy, but these trucks are in transit with goods not from Oshikango but from South Africa," said Jerobeam Hamutenya, an Oshikango businessman.

Hamutenya says even the Chinese are now abandoning Oshikango to establish shops in villages in Angola. "Business is going down every day. It doesn't matter what kind of business you are involved in, business is very bad and people are obviously losing their jobs because if you cannot sell, you obviously have to let go of your employees," he says.

In his letter, Iindji pointed to a number of constraints that are hampering the ability to export goods to Angola, which used to be the mainstay of the town's economy. These include the sudden scrapping of the 80 percent export allowance incentive since November 2011, an insecure business environment and obstacles that confront foreign business people such as Pakistanis and Iranians obtaining business visas. According to Iindji, the border town is export oriented and exporting goods to Angola has been and still remains the driving force behind the town's economy. He says the development of the town and job security for at least 6 000 people are at risk.

"However, with the adverse business conditions during the past three years more and more investors are losing faith and getting ready to pull out."

"Hence, to analyse the situation and find sustainable options to remedy the ongoing economic decline of Helao Nafidi, the NCCI Northern Branch suggests setting up a stakeholder conference in February 2013," reads the letter.

Among those that have been invited to the Helao Nafidi Economic Revival Stakeholder Conference include the ministries of Trade and Industry, Finance, Home Affairs and Immigration, Regional and Local Government, Housing and Rural Development, institutions such as Bank of Namibia (BoN), the Oshikango Business Association, the Local Economic Development Agency, and business personalities in Oshikango and Helao Nafidi, among others.

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