Namibia's Trade Habits Unmoved

NAMIBIA'S trading patterns seem to remain stagnant - especially with regards to exporting minerals to China and importing the basics from South Africa.

According to the Namibia Statistics Agency's trade statistics for February this year, there has been no change in trading partners, products or the local trade approach of extracting and shipping out.

Statistician general Alex Shimuafeni says China continues to be Namibia's largest export market, while South Africa maintains first position as Namibia's largest source of imports.

February's export basket mainly consisted of minerals such as copper, pearls and precious stones (diamonds), non-monetary gold and copper concentrate.

Fish was the only non-mineral product among the top-five export products.

In terms of imports, Namibia goes all over the world looking for copper, then exports it to China, the Netherlands and Australia, who seem to know how to best utilise this, since copper accounts for 62,4% of its total re-exports.

Other products topping the imports list are petroleum and petroleum products, motor vehicles, telecommunication equipment, and medicinal and pharmaceutical products.

These trade statistics come at a time when politicians are advocating economic transformation and diversification, which is yet to be reflected in trade statistics.

In terms of value, the non-growing and narrowing trade account has decreased for the month, as import and export transactions were valued at N$13,9 billion.

This is 18,4% less than N$17,1 billion for January 2021, and 1,1% lower than the figure for February 2020, which stood at N$14,1 billion.

A trade deficit has been normalised as Namibia exports products with lower value, such as extracted minerals or little-processed minerals, agricultural and marine products.

The proceeds are used to procure high-value finished products from South Africa and other manufacturing nations.

The country in February spent N$2,4 billion more on other countries' economies compared to what it received for the month.

This is a larger deficit than the N$1,8 billion spent in January 2021, but slightly less than the N$3,5 billion registered in February 2020.

Namibia managed to sell goods to the rest of the world in February this year worth N$5,7 billion - a reduction of 24,6% compared to N$7,6 billion worth of goods sold in January 2021.

At the same time, the country imported goods worth N$8,2 billion, which is 13,4% and 6,9% less compared to the N$9,5 billion and N$8,8 billion spent on imports in January 2021 and February 2020, respectively.

This could be due to the unsettled economy, with more jobs lost than created.

Copper, mainly destined for China, the Netherlands and Australia, was Namibia's largest export commodity during the month under review, accounting for 36% of total exports ahead of fish, which accounted for 15,2% of total exports.

Precious stones (diamonds), primarily destined for Botswana, the United Arab Emirates and Belgium, claimed third position with a contribution of 14,1% to total exports.

Non-monetary gold was in fourth place with 4,9% exported, as South Africa remains the solitary importer of Namibia's gold.

Inorganic chemicals occupied fifth position with a contribution of 4,6% as a result of exports to China, Finland and the United Arab Emirates.

The aforementioned top-five export commodities jointly accounted for 74,9% of Namibia's exports.

The country has been in economic distress since 2016, and the Covid-19 pandemic added to this, resulting in an economic contraction of 8% for 2020.

Mining and quarrying represent 10% of gross domestic product (GDP) and 56% of exports, but only 2% of employment.

At the other extreme, agriculture, forestry and fishing represent 7% of GDP and about 30% of employment.

The availability of timely and high-quality trade statistics is a precondition for in-depth analysis of the employment, production, income, consumption and overall welfare of both the country and the world.

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