8 July 2013

Namibia: Local Companies Must Walk the Talk

Rundu — Political leaders in the region say local companies are not willing to step in to help government with monetary and material assistance when the country is struck by natural disasters. The head of the Namibia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NCCI) has however dismissed such assertions, saying local companies have always worked together with government in emergencies.

"From government's side we would really like to see the local business community assisting us in times of difficulty, that way we know that they are with us during difficult times and also in times of wealth," said Kavango Regional Governor, Ambassador Dr Samuel Mbambo, during an interview with New Era last week. The governor says the same local companies are always upset when foreign companies are awarded government tenders, but it is the foreign companies that often come forward to make donations of aid to government when there is an emergency.

Mbambo appealed to the local business community to emulate the example set by foreign companies who always assist government during difficult times. "Maybe they [locals] are still preparing to come forth with donations, but if they are doing so they are taking too long. If they are not preparing anything, we are reminding them of their social responsibility that they get their money from the community and now the community is in trouble. Save the cow that is giving you milk so that you get milk tomorrow," pleaded Mbambo.

NCCI's Chief Executive Officer, Tarah Shaanika, however says the local business community cannot be termed stingy because they have been forthcoming where necessary. "Local companies have huge social responsibility programmes that they are running and they have always been there for government. I cannot speak on behalf of the local businesses but in my view the local companies are also affected, not only the farmers. The local companies have helped a lot in the past without even being called upon," said Shaanika.

Mbambo urged local businesses, individuals as well as foreign investors to bear in mind that the prevailing drought is an emergency, and they are all required to work with government to avert the crisis for a better tomorrow.

"I appeal to each and every one of us involved in the distribution of drought relief food, be it the suppliers, transporting agents and the distributors to take note that the President [Hifikepunye Pohamba] declared the drought as an emergency therefore they must deliver promptly," the governor said, adding that he received reports of children going late to school and bunking classes because of hunger. "I do not want to act on hearsay therefore I tasked our education directorate to investigate the situation and present their findings to me," he said.

Shaanika gave the assurance that the business community is trying its best to assist the affected citizens. "I know that following the Namibia Red Cross Society's (NRCS) appeal on Wednesday, the private sector will come on board," said Shaanika. NRCS on Wednesday launched an emergency drought relief appeal to raise N$12.5 million to help vulnerable Namibians who are starving. The humanitarian organization said about 780 000 Namibians do not have access to adequate sufficient, safe and nutritious food.

"It is really unfair to say the local business community complains when they are not awarded government tenders because they do not assist government. We have raised many issues affecting the economy such as transfer pricing by foreign companies and tax avoidance, therefore it is unfair to compare the local and foreign business communities in this regard", said Shaanika.

"If you've benefited through transfer pricing over the years and as a result you steal, let's say N$100 million out of the country, then you come with N$1 million saying I donate to drought - to me that is not how it should be. I am not saying they [foreign companies] are all doing that, but I am saying it is unfair to say the locals complain when they don't get tenders but when they need to give they are not forthcoming," said Shaanika.

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