Northern millionaires decry ‘foreign invasion’

Indigenous businesses on the verge of collapse

11 June 2021 | Local News

Mathias Haufiku







Windhoek

A group of businessmen from the north, some who have for years benefitted handsomely from public contracts, are decrying the increasing presence of foreign business in that part of the country, and accusing authorities of not protecting their businesses against new competition.

The business owners said lawmakers and politicians “should come out strongly and tell us if we must do business or leave the business to foreign nationals because we can see that we can talk but no one is listening”, adding that government is “pretending to not see what is happening”.

They claim Namibian business people are dislodged from economic activities.

In a letter to government through the Namibia Chamber for Commerce and Industry (NCCI) on Monday, the group said the situation has resulted in the creation of perceptions that there is rampant – and some dare say wanton – lack of protection from government to safeguard local interests.

The group includes business personalities such as Ben Hauwanga, Ben Zaaruka, David Nghipunduka, David Sheehama, Erastus Shapumba, Martin Shipanga and Fenny Nanyeni, amongst others.

“The message we wish to put across is simply the imperative for government to further protect the business community, particularly in the northern areas of Namibia, from foreign nationals who have been thriving at the expense of locals.

“If Namibian business people are not protected from foreign nationals’ businesses in terms of law enforcement such as the Namibia Investment Promotional Act, then in the next two years our own businesses will find themselves out of business as competition is not favourable any more,” the group said.

This will boil down to retrenchments, they cautioned.

“Foreign nationals are opening shops next to our local business people in retail space and other industries. Namibians will soon become economic aliens in their country if due care is not taken,” the group charged.

Foreigners get support

They also claim that since the promulgation of the Namibia Investment Protection Act, the business community has continued to decry the prevalence of unfair competition, particularly from the perspective that some foreign entities enjoy enormous support from their countries of origin to the detriment of locals.

“They have not ventured into the creation of value chains but have rather suffocated the retail sector to such an extent that locals are crowded out. It is important to really reflect and critically assess the environment both externally and internally.”

According to the group, most local business entities, particularly in the retail sector, have been suffocated through economic and financial strangulation.

“The competitors have immense financial and economic muscle. The locals that had hitherto set up infrastructure are now simply renting out their premises to these giants at laughable rental fees. This is particularly prevalent in the retail sector.

Suppliers have developed what can only be termed as ‘tribal’ preferences. They give good discounts and terms to their kith and kin who have set up shop on every inch. They have completely changed the retail landscape without adding anything to economic activity production wise,” the group said.

“We, the local business people, are not against competition. Simply put, we cherish the challenge competition poses. It is good for the consumer. We simply wish to request our government to level the playing field.

“We need to identify short- and long-term attention areas. One such area is the manner in which close corporations are registered within the country. It would be very interesting to get a picture of how many such close corporations belong to foreigners or are registered in the names of Namibians as proxies,” the group proposed.