Namibia’s Boom Town in Dire Straits

Windhoek – The once booming northern border town of Oshikango is in dire straits following a decline in trading activities with the northern neighbour, Angola.
The 1990s and 2000s saw business boom in Oshikango, a part of Helao Nafidi district in Ohangwena region, because of increased trading activities with the oil and diamond rich Angola.
As the Angolan economy slowly recovers from the effects of a protracted civil war, authorities across the border have been slowly curtailing imports from Namibia.
The area is also home to an Export Processing Zone, which is also in sharp decline.
Fearing that Oshikango might become a ghost town, the Namibia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NCCI) plans to hold a Helao Nafidi Economic Revitalisation Stakeholder Conference on February 15.
Tomas Iindji, the Chairperson of NCCI Northern Branch, says the desperate situation of the Helao Nafidi economy, as a whole, and the local export business have drawn the chamber’s attention.
He says the current environment at Helao Nafidi is not in favour of the business community.
Apart from local business owners in the area, there are also foreign investors among them Pakistanis, Iranians and Lebanese.
Iindji said the sudden and full abolishment of the export allowance incentive by the Namibian government in November 2011 has shocked businesses, as their investments were based on long-term planning and a safe and secure business environment.
“Export-oriented investment and exports to Angola itself have been and are still the driving force behind Helao Nafidi’s economy.
“They were the prime source behind Helao Nafidi’s rapid social and communal development and still secure the employment of about 6 000 local Namibian residents in the area.
“However, with the adverse business conditions aggravating during the past three years or more, some investors are losing faith and getting ready to pull out.
“For Helao Nafidi, this might result in a contracting economy, rocketing unemployment and a communal collapse,” said Iindji. He said several government ministries and town councils north of Namibia have been invited to attend the conference with a view to find a sustainable solution to the problem.
In the past few years, businesses like car dealerships and many others have moved out of Oshikango.  
Last year, NCCI and the Ministry of Trade and Industry met Angolan officials to discuss the business situation at Oshikango and find a new strategy to spur business in the town.
It was even suggested last year that Namibia allow the use of the Angolan kwanza as legal tender in Oshikango since Angolan authorities had limited the amount of United States dollars their citizens could bring into Namibia.

February 2013
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