Chinese 'pushed me out of business'

05 December 2018 | Business

A Rundu-based entrepreneur has been pushed out of the steel industry because he could no longer compete with the increasing number of Chinese-owned businesses entering the market.

In 2016, Namibian Sun published an article about Grasiano Kapitango, the owner of GCK Holdings, which manufactured corrugated roof sheets.

At the time, Kapitango, together with his five employees, could produce 600 sheets per day.

He had hoped to expand his business and employ more people.

However, during a recent visit to his business premises in Rundu, Namibian Sun discovered that Kapitango had shut down his business two years ago. The premises are now being used as a mechanic workshop.

Namibian Sun managed to track down Kapitango, who said the market for his products was affected by the increase in the number of Chinese businesspeople who manufactured roof sheets more cheaply than he could. “The market was not there anymore. It is not that people were not constructing. It is just that individuals and contractors opted to buy the cheaper ones from the Chinese shops,” Kapitango said.

“This then forced me to close my workshop, but it also meant that I had to let my employees go, which was bad.”

Currently there are about five Chinese businesses manufacturing roof sheets in and around Rundu, while another Chinese company is based at Nkurenkuru in the Kavango West Region.

Kapitango has turned to other opportunities, saying he is no longer interested in the steel industry because the laws of the country do not protect the interests of Namibians.

He also shared how he visited Botswana, where he says the steel industry is run by locals.

“In Botswana you will find big Chinese-owned warehouses but they only sell the machinery and train the locals. The people of that country are in control of their manufacturing industry. It is not like here, where the Chinese are not selling machines, they in fact do the manufacturing and compete with us,” Kapitango said.

Namibian Sun understands that another factor pushing local businesspeople out of business is the land and housing public-private partnerships (PPPs) local authorities enter into with foreign developers. The concern is that Chinese contractors opt to buy building materials from fellow Chinese, who have entered various business sectors, and not from locals.

When asked if this was the case at Rundu, Kapitango agreed, saying that Chinese contractors buy from fellow Chinese, whether it is bricks, cement, roof sheets or other materials. When contacted for comment, Namibia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NCCI) Rundu branch chairperson Mubiana Wamunyima said the current executive committee had only been in office since October, and it was therefore premature for them to comment.

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