A birthright for a song

10 July 2019 | Opinion

Like the proverbial biblical Esau who sold his birthright to his younger brother Jacob for a bowl of steaming hot lentil stew, Namibia still finds herself guilty of giving away her prized jewels for next to nothing.

A case in point would be our mining resources and so too would be what has been happening with our timber.

It is in this light that we must view a call by the Muzokumwe Volunteers Association (MVA) for timber factories to be built, so we can halt the practice of selling centuries-old trees for peanuts.

MVA chairperson Paulus Mbangu said at the weekend that timber from the two Kavango regions should not be sold cheaply to the Chinese market, but should rather be processed inside the country to create employment for local youth.

Youth unemployment in Kavango East stands at about 63%, while in Kavango West it is currently at about 47%.

“We have timber, a lot of timber that can enable us to come up with timber factories, unlike the tendency that we just picked up that there are some who want to sell timber like vetkoek at a price of N$300,” Mbangu said.

As has been succinctly argued over the years, Namibia's economic growth is largely dependent on investments in the primary sector (raw materials), specifically in mining.

The country has for years been urged to change its focus to the secondary and tertiary sectors, if its resources are truly to benefit ordinary citizens.

We must pay more than lip service to value-addition and beneficiation as drivers of employment.

We cannot be left to the mercy of ailing commodity prices, a situation that continues to push our employment rate higher and higher.

It is critical that we do more than just talk about value-addition, if we are to truly move towards being a self-reliant. What we can ill-afford is to continue shipping our raw materials at low cost to those who sell it back at massive profit.

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