We need a strategy

07 January 2020 | Opinion

Namibian companies are changing hands at an arguably unseen pace. With both the givers and receivers being foreign, locals continue to be spectators to this hive of activity.

The latest such move is the intention by West China Cement to acquire Schwenk Namibia's 69% stake in Ohorongo Cement for approximately N$1.5 billion.

Last year, the Rössing Uranium Mine was sold to China National Uranium Corporation (CNUC), also for N$1.5 billion.

The irony in both situations is that neither the sellers nor buyers are Namibian. Ohorongo is, essentially, German-owned, while Rössing belonged to Anglo-Australian multi-national Rio Tinto.

Namibia seemingly does not have a strategy on how to ensure that the country acquires stakes in entities it deems profitable and beneficial. We do not necessarily think government should be involved in businesses such as cement production. But when it comes to the extraction of strategic minerals like uranium, diamonds, copper, and gold, active state involvement is imperative.

If the state cannot be involved itself, it must create conditions for individual Namibians to be. At individual level, it is clear that Namibians simply do not have the capital required to acquire stakes in the likes of Ohorongo, Rössing or the Navachab mine, which was also sold to the British not too long ago.

Not even Epangelo Mining, a state vehicle established to usher the nation into active mining, could afford what Rössing, Navachab and other mines were offered for.

This means whatever approach we have been using for the past 30 years is not working. And we cannot stick to the same model and expect different results.

Namibia's mineral riches are not infinite. A day will come when all of them will no longer exist. But on this evidence, there will be nothing to show future generations that this country once boasted such riches.

We continue to borrow money from China, the African Development Bank and other global lenders while billions leave our shores daily to enrich other nations.

Unless we act decisively to rectify this, we will continue whining until the cows come home.

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