Windhoek — Namibia hosted the World Indigenous Business Forum (WIBF) last week, the first ever such event to be held on the African continent.
The three-day forum, that started on October 16 was attended by entrepreneurs, traditional leaders, councillor, government representatives, as well as national and business leaders to discuss global trends, policies and regulations on indigeneous businesses.
Participants came from as far as Canada, Guatemala, the United States of America, Canada, Australia and Norway. "Some of the notable policy interventions in support of the indigenous people are in the areas of access to natural resources and to improve the capacity of communities to carry out sustainable self-help income- and employment-generating business activities.
In this regard, a number of policy initiatives have been implemented to grant and expand access to and ownership of natural resources in resource-based sectors such as mining, fisheries and tourism," said the Minister of Trade and Industry, Calle Schlettwein at the opening of the event.
According to Schlettwein the government's community-based conservancy and tourism policy and programme, is one of the successful initiatives that have won the country international accolades.
Other notable measures are in the areas of affirmative action and employment equity, as well as policies to protect and promote the exploitation of genetic resources, indigenous plant varieties and traditional knowledge in general. Schlettwein said in order to implement measures to safeguard the rights and benefits of indigenous people, governments in developing countries such as Namibia need adequate policy space.
However, such requisite policy space is being threatened or put under pressure in the face of current multilateral trading arrangement and negotiations.
"Our collective action is needed to safeguard that policy space and flexibility for us to call into action measures that will ensure that indigenous or as they say home-grown resources and knowledge are exploited in ways that ensures that the benefits accruing therefrom are shared with the indigenous population and the entire local population," said Schlettwein.
He further said the trade and industry sector, has also adopted and implemented several business support programmes aimed at increasing opportunities for poverty reduction, employment and wealth creation by supporting local entrepreneurial efforts, especially in rural areas and at micro-, small- and medium-scale industry levels.
"Given the paradox of Namibia being a rich country, as measured in terms of GDP per capita on the one hand, and the prevailing high inequality, poverty and unemployment on the other, we have focused our effort on promoting manufacturing and value addition to our natural resources," said Schlettwein.
Schlettwein said Namibia would continue to think globally, while at the same time ensuring that its actions nationally and globally bring about growth at home, measured in terms of tangible benefits to its people.
He further noted that this is the basis for the government's 'Growth at Home' strategy and emphasised the importance of manufacturing, local value addition and the development of value chains, for a fair share from the distribution of benefits from such processes to accrue to citizens through meaningful employment, participation and ownership.
"One of the realities from globalisation is that, while we are endowed with genetic or indigenous resources and know-how, we cannot effectively compete in this age of globalization if we continue to rely on the export of genetic or raw materials," Schlettwein said.