Namibia: Businesses Must Be Innovative and Trade Borders Must Remain Open - Private Sector

Faced with the prospect of an economy further devastated by Covid-19 after suffering from a recession for the last two years, a private sector task team spearheaded by the ministry of industrialisation and the Namibia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NCCI) has encouraged businesses to be innovative in conducting their activities in order to minimise the spread of the deadly virus. The task team also recommends that trade borders between Namibia and neighbouring countries remain open at all cost to avoid a meltdown of the domestic economy and to ensure the free flow of all imports and exports.

For example, supermarkets, restaurants etc, have been urged to incorporate drive-through delivery services to decrease large gatherings. The task team, comprised of, amongst others, Construction Industry Federation, Namibia Trade Forum, Namibian Manufacturers Association, Namibia Agriculture Union, Walvis Bay Corridor Group, Bankers Association of Namibia as well as retailers, manufacturers, transport and distribution companies, also emphasised communication through all local languages on the prevention and management of the virus to minimise panic and fear, which, if unchecked could lead to mass stockpiling of essential commodities.

The task team further recommended that government and private sector meet regularly to device new measures where necessary should the lockdown in South Africa persist.

"In addition, government should ensure that all industries are included and consulted in the development of major decisions that may and will affect them to ensure an effective response by all," said NCCI's Charity Mwiya.

The Task Team was mandated by the trade ministry to identify issues affecting business operations, specifically during the state of emergency and to recommend appropriate actions to Cabinet via the trade ministry.

During a meeting on 19 March 2020, the task team considered strategies and measures to ensure the availability of essential commodities in pharmacies, retail shops and supermarkets. Meeting participants acknowledged the massive burden brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic, especially after a two-year economic crisis, which they said could see Namibia spiral into extreme poverty with no economic prospects.

"Therefore, the meeting recognised the need for government and Private sector to take hands and develop a way forward," Mwiya added.

Through the task team the private sector has proposed resolving the short and long-term effect of the current public health emergency and economic crisis by building an economic recovery plan based on three pillars, namely; Safeguarding people against the spread of the virus while limiting economic damage; Strengthening the private sector to survive the pandemic and grow; and Increase investment to grow industries and jobs

Furthermore, the task team encouraged the private sector to send employees on extended leave without unnecessary retrenchment, exemption or relaxing PAYE for employees, which they said will lower wage bills without affecting employees' take-home pay.

"The government must boost local procurement of essentials such as food, beverages, sanitary equipment, and protective clothing. However, public procurement process and volumes need to be determined by government and information should be availed to producers. We call on government to also extend incentives to local manufacturers to enable them to manufacture the much-needed equipment and produce food in the shortest possible time," Mwiya added.

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