By Timo Shihepo
WINDHOEK-NAMIBIA’S manufacturing sector should add value to natural resources and shun raw exports, says Inge Zaamwani-Kamwi, the Presidential Advisor on Constitutional Affairs and Private Sector Interface.
Namibia continues to export raw materials with diamonds, copper cathodes, fish, copper ores and zinc making up the top five products exported in 2015.
Rough diamonds accounted for 33 percent of overall exports last year, an increase from 18.3 percent recorded in 2014. Earnings from these commodities only brought the country R42.2 billion last year.
In contrast, expenditure on imports from these finished products cost the country R43.7 billion in 2015 a rise from R35 billion in 2014.
In addition, Namibia continues to record an unfavourable trade balance, with 2015 recording the highest trade deficit amounting to R32.9 billion in 10 years since 2006.
Namibia imports more than 80 percent of its products from neighbouring South Africa. The country recorded a trade deficit of R50.7 billion with South Africa in 2015.
Zaamwani-Kamwi told The Southern Times on the side-lines of the Invest in Namibia International Conference this week that the exporting of raw materials will continue to haunt trade balance if the country doesn’t lure investors in the manufacturing sector.
The former managing director of diamond producer, Namdeb Diamond Corporation – a joint venture between the government and De Beers – said she would like to see investors concentrating their millions or even billions in the country’s manufacturing sector.
“Manufacturing is the base of the country’s industrialisation process,” she said.
Namibia has formulated an industrial policy aimed at driving the beneficiation thrust, which is expected to come to full capacity by 2030.
Namibia wants to move from producing and exporting predominantly primary commodities to offering value added and service-orientated products.
The country is also hoping that production and export structure would also be more diverse, enabling the economy to better withstands exogenous shocks.
“We have so much raw materials in this country but we continue to send these materials outside the country for manufacturing. The money spent on sending these materials for development outside the country as well as the money spent on buying the finished products is enormous and could have been used to empower our people,” said Zaamwani-Kamwi.
She added that if Namibia can get companies to partner local people to do value-added production of merchandise for use or sale using labour and machines, tools, chemical and biological processing, or formulation that will be essential.
“It’s not just in Namibia but if we can get that right in the whole of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region then we will have an industrialised region soon,” she said.
Zaamwani-Kamwi said the Invest in Namibia Conference present an opportunity for the country to market itself to potential investors in the manufacturing sector.