In conversation with
Hon. Immanuel Ngatjizeko
Minister of Industrialization, Trade and SME Development of Namibia |
FDI Spotlight: Does Namibia have the political will, the leadership and the skills to ensure that investors can implement the Public Private Partnerships (PPP) Act?
Hon. Immanuel Ngatjizeko: We got our independence quite late and we learned the lessons from what has transpired in the past. We decided that our independence should have set characteristics; most importantly, to be unified. We accept the policy of national reconciliation and you will find their is a great amount of respect and trust from our people of all backgrounds.
Due to our turbulent past we needed to set specific policies that would help us to proceed and develop in a peaceful and stable way. We realised that the private sector would play a very important role in our economy, they are key in creating employment, developing the country at large and reducing poverty. We have a very strong and vibrant leadership base in Namibia who are all very committed to national development, property and ensuring we move closer and closer to each other in both the private and public spheres. We understand tough decisions will need to be made and if their is no trust there is little attractiveness and growth.
The private sector is always considered when we make important decisions and policy reform.Recently we acted with what we believed was sound consultation, yet we learnt this engagement needed to be deepened to understand the action would result in consequences on a practical private sector basis. So reforms were withdrawn and we have gone back to draft. We believe that these are positive signals of growth. The PPP Act was born out of the realisation that the private sector is the key driver of our future economic roadmap. Working effectively and with mutual efficacy with the private sector we face a better chance of seeing PPP being attractive and our vision 2030 being achieved.
Is there trust between the public and private sector?
Hon. Immanuel Ngatjizeko: Our policies are geared towards to accommodating businesses that want to come and set up here. We are also a gateway to bigger markets, such as South Africa and Zambia. We are currently negotiating a freight agreement within the SADC region.
The positives we have, that is regionally acknowledge regarding Namibia is that we are stable, peaceful, and have well-established infrastructure in terms of communications, financial services and our ports.
We took The Namibia Investment Promotion Act (NIPA) to parliament last year. It was accepted and signed off by the President. The investment community had some issues that needed to be raised. The issues were heard and dealt with before the act was implemented and now we are once more looking at how we can increased our competitiveness index. I feel trust is being built by concerted efforts by our President, Minister of Finance and our Minister of Public Enterprises who are all modeling the way forward for the public sector, with good governance. On the other hand the private sector is being vocal yet supportive by offering an open door and engagement. We must take that advantage as it could become one of our competitive advantages if we keep taking the necessary steps together. We acknowledge the country is at its best if we can align ourselves. That trust must be earned, on both sides.
What can we expect from this new NIPA Act? How can it increase competitiveness?
Hon. Immanuel Ngatjizeko: Economic rankings are a concern to us, once we know them we are forced to reflect and ask what is it that we need to improve?
Our ranking was downgraded by Fitch, but the necessary financial arrangements that are needed to remain stable and pay our debts have been addressed by diligence from our finance minister.
The obvious ways we can attract investors and improve investor confidence is through ease of doing business, accommodating investors, allowing investors to export their profit and having an independent judicial system. The independent judicial system would mean that if investors or potential investors have any issues, they can be dealt with in our courts without any influence from the government. The rule of law is king.
Some measures have been taken to speed up the processing of applications for those who want to come and invest. We are working on something called One Stop Shop, where the appropriate stakeholders will arrive in one place on a specific day and take up different issues that have been suggested to them, then subsequently work on the solutions. Having a one stop shop will reduce the frustration for investors whereby all solutions can be solved and consulted upon under one roof rather than the fragmented system of old. We have approached a Singaporean company, we are using them as an example, and we admire what they have achieved. The company is helping us to speed up our processes here. That will help our ranking immensely.
When is the One Stop Shop expected to come online and what can an investor expect?
Hon. Immanuel Ngatjizeko: Within a year it should be implemented. We face various challenges that impact and sometimes prevent change from happening efficiently, or legislation/programmes being implemented; namely poverty, unemployment and inequality have taken priority. Our government is trying to address those issues, it is one of their main focuses particuluarly now whilst the economy has seen slower growth.
We need skilled people, skilled labour; doctors, engineers, etc. they will help us to grow our economy and transfer critical knowledge. FDI is needed, we are certainly open for business and Namibia is a great entry point into Africa. We do not come across many investors that do not fall in love with the uniqueness of our country.
We think that the companies that the cabinet has put up here must also address the issue of youth unemployment. We are peaceful and stable, but you never know until when, so these issues must be addressed now. Certainly it is a SADC challenge and an African challenge.It is expected, Africa will inherit the largest workforce in the world by 2050 with almost all demographics heavily weighted towards the youth. We need to find solutions and opportunities for the youth and we certainly require FDI to support this rich resource pool of skilled potential.
We now have a medical school, a pharmaceutical school, engineering school, twenty-seven years ago we did not even have a university.
As industrialisation is one of the major mandates of what you are trying to do; integration and infrastructure development is key, is there a move to create more centres of excellence for technical and vocational skills? How do you balance the conflict or need between practical internships and office jobs?
Hon. Immanuel Ngatjizeko: We have got very few technical schools, but the Ministry of Higher Education, Training and Innovation are currently addressing the issues that you are talking about. They are establishing technical schools that focus on different skills. This does not just provide skills and educate our people, it will also provide jobs, which will in turn help the companies that are setting up here. Certainly we would encourage educational investment and TVET institutional investment, which would not only provide immense impact but enhance the quality of life for all Namibians.
How do we get TransNamib, Air Namibia and other extremely valuable assets to the Namibian economy in line and on track to support the quality ports and regional integration agenda?
Hon. Immanuel Ngatjizeko: We want the seaport to connect to other parts of SADC, Africa and the world. Our rail should connect Namibia’s trade first and foremost in an effective, efficient and to a world class standard. However we admit there is a lot of work required over the coming years to realise that. Furthermore we would also like our rail to go to Botswana, we want to promote intra-African trade and this will open up a quality corridor for trade and further into central African markets. If we provide this infrastructure then we are on the right track. We also feel that this provides a strong candidate for a PPP if we can find the right investor to work hand in glove with us.
The reason why we worked so hard on the PPP Act was to facilitate the expansion of our infrastructure like Walvis Bay. We want companies that can help us expand our railways, our airports, our roads, not just in Namibia, but to neighbouring countries too.
Now is the time to invest in Namibia, the opportunities are here. The potential growth of the African continent must be taken into consideration, and the need to feed the growing mouths. There are ways to overcome the limitations we have with rail, air and the lack of water, like desalination plants.
There is huge potential in Namibia for investors, we will maintain our peaceful and cooperative atmosphere, so that we can work together. The challenges that we face can be turned around with the help of investors.