Namibia: Coffin Manufacturing Creates Value Addition for Local Timber

10 September 2021

Industrialisation and trade minister Lucia Iipumbu said the successful development of a viable backward linkage between Namibia's coffin manufacturers and timber harvesters would ensure the development of a key value addition outlet of local timber.

Value addition for Namibian timber has been a constant challenge, as truckloads are constantly being exported - mostly to Asia.

In fact, Namibia Ports Authority figures show that between November 2018 and December 2019, alone, some 70 000 tonnes of timber were exported through the Port of Walvis Bay, of which 13% or 9100 tonnes of originated in Namibia.

"As the ministry of industrialisation and trade, it is our conviction that this strategy will support our efforts towards economic growth. Detailed import data showed us that we import everything concerning coffins and caskets, and there is hardly any link to local production," Iipumbu explained.

She added the situation is not desirable, particularly when Namibia not only has trained skills abundantly available but also has the natural resource to support development of the manufacturing sector.

Responding to questions from New Era, Iipumbu said the proposal to manufacture coffins locally meets the key tenets of the 'Growth at Home' strategy, namely ensuring market access, supporting value addition of Namibia's natural resources, enabling local productive capacity and embellishing requisite institutional frameworks that ensure sustainability. The trade ministry, along with key stakeholders such as the National Planning Commission as well as the ministries of labour and finance, recently tabled a proposal to Cabinet to develop national coffin manufacturing capabilities. This week, stakeholders received the Cabinet action letter supporting the proposal.

"Essentially, we are looking at ensuring the development of entrepreneurial skills of our local manufacturing capabilities through training and mentoring and the development of an appropriate online marketing platform through StartUp Namibia. This will create a viable link between our local manufacturing sector and funeral parlours through a supplier development program, and we will look at current regulations that may affect the creation of such a link, and we will look at public procurement provisions," said the trade minister.

During one of the recent Covid-19 briefings in July 2021, President Hage Geingob noted great challenges present opportunity for growth.

"Anticipated disruptions to the supply chains of essential goods and services in the Republic of South Africa may present an opportunity to bolster our domestic capacity. Accelerated efforts are underway to, among others, increase local oxygen generating capacity through an investment by the GIPF and to fast-track the manufacturing of coffins locally," said Geingob at the time.

He added such renewed investments should remain viable beyond this particular crisis, thereby creating new opportunities for the country's youth.

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