O&L/Dinapama deal commendable

23 October 2019 | Columns

The Ohlthaver & List (O&L) Group recently procured casual corporate golf shirts for its 6 000 employees from local manufacturer Dinapama. This is no ordinary feat.

The deal defies Namibia's sleepy approach to its much-trumpeted 'Growth at Home' commitment, which is loud on paper but silent in practice.

Even government, which is supposed to lead by example by procuring locally, still has boardrooms flooded with imported mineral water, while the country's five manufacturers of the same product are without a market.

Government's own green schemes are drowning under the weight of their own produce, stockpiled to the heights of Mount Everest, because no one is buying them. Even food for the bleeding-heart food bank is procured from supermarket chains, costing government millions of dollars. True, government as the biggest bulk buyer has the obligation to support both the public and private sector, but the difference lies in the fact that when public businesses are supported, the money remains within that all-important sector that we all own as a people. Public schools and hospitals, arguably the biggest consumers of food, are littered with imported products while local produce is rotting unabated. Why not make it a standing policy that no foodstuff that is consumed in such institutions should be imported, unless the local market has been completely exhausted? The financially troubled Agro-Marketing and Trade Agency (Amta) closed its fresh produce distribution hubs earlier this year because they were no longer commercially viable.

The hubs were teeming with fresh produce that no one was buying, because even other state agencies were importing onions and tomatoes from abroad, while the same produce was rotting at their doorstep. It is a comedy of errors, if anything. O&L is leading the way, and its deal with Dinapama is a testimony to its commitment to 'Growth at Home' and its patriotism.

It is true that being Namibian must not be the only prerequisite to procure locally. The quality of products and services cannot be compromised, but everyone must start somewhere.

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