BY EDGAR BRANDT
The just-ended Invest in Namibia conference – at which feasibility studies and business plans worth over N$53 billion were presented – has exceeded the expectations of both the nation and government, its main organiser.
It attracted so many more participants than initially anticipated from across Africa and the world that the permanent secretary in the ministry of industrialisation, Gabriel Sinimbo, has called for the urgent construction of an investors convention centre in the country.
Sinimbo made the call to ensure that future investment conferences and similar events are not limited in size due the insufficient capacity of available venues.
“One urgency that we now sit with as a country is to fast-track the implementation or the construction of an investors convention centre. Namibia has not been in a position to host large meetings because of the (capacity) limitations,” Sinimbo told New Era Weekend during an exclusive interview on the sidelines of the event.
As an example, he pointed out that Invest in Namibia registration for micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) was closed within the first few days of registration as this sector was tremendously over-subscribed.
“We could not accommodate many of the MSMEs. You may have seen that this facility could not accommodate the total number of participants,” he told us.
“Many people were in the foyers of the venue but fortunately we provided some screens there for them to be able to follow the proceedings. So there is a serious urgent need for us to have a convention centre where we can comfortably arrange an investors conference, responding to the demands of those who would want to attend and invest in this country.”
When preparation for the event began organisers expected about 500 participants. A few weeks down the line the number of participants had increased to approximately 800, based on the capacity of the restaurants at the venue, and when the event eventually took place this week a total of 1886 people attended due to overwhelming demand.
In attendance were aspiring investors from Australia, Japan, Chile, France, Germany, Ireland, Mozambique, Spain, Belarus, Serbia, China, UK, Turkey, Brazil, Finland, Sweden, Canada, Angola, Israel, Portugal, Nigeria, Hungary, United States of America, Korea, South Africa and Zimbabwe, amongst others.
“The level of interest was really, really impressive. It was very high. For us this is a lesson that moving forward in terms of future investment conferences it is very much helpful when we are ready as a country in terms of the opportunities, not only just to present opportunities but there must be opportunities that are clear and have been tested in terms of feasibilities and viabilities related to cost implications and in terms of where these investment opportunities can be established immediately.”
“This is quite helpful because for the investors it saves time, it saves them money and for the government, for Namibia, we can immediately see the results,” Sinimbo commented.
The ministry of industrialisation changed the usual format of conferences of this type by making Invest in Namibia a targeted investors conference. This means that project proposals were appraised and evaluated before the conference started.
While about 500 project proposals were received, the final number was reduced to about 20 investment projects and included feasibility studies and business plans with a combined total investment of over N$53 billion.
“I have been to many investors conferences and I have rarely come across the signing of Memorandums of Agreements on specific projects simply because many of the investors conferences I have been to have not had specific projects to offer.”
“That’s why this conference was quite different and that’s why we have seen at least two MoU’s being signed, even though one is not on a project. With the other projects investors have indicated the need to further engage. This is normal because as an investor you cannot just invest because the project is ready. You need to validate and verify some information,” Sinimbo explained.
The largest business delegations at the Conference were from South Africa and Germany with more than 80 from South Africa and over 40 from German.
Premier of the Gauteng Province of South Africa, David Makhura, and Wolfgang Tiefensee, Minister of Economy, Science and Digital Society of the Federal German Free State of Thüringen, respectively represented the two delegations.
Invest in Namibia 2016 consisted of four important components, namely the conference, Made in Namibia Expo, a project centre presenting the investment projects and a Business to Business (B2B) meeting platform.
The conference programme covered seven plenary and six breakaway sessions over the two days, and was addressed by 67 local and 21 international speakers including ministers, industry experts, senior government officials and private sector representatives.
The budget earmarked to host Invest in Namibia 2016 was N$15.5 million but organisers can only confirm total expenditure when they have serviced all their commitments.
“It is a very expensive undertaking, taking into account that for some of the delegates you need to provide accommodation and transportation. There are staff who worked long hours of overtime who must be remunerated.”
“We not only provided refreshments here (at the hotel) because we wanted this to be different and for the first time we even provided refreshments at the airport for our visitors. Significant expenditure was also made in terms of conference materials, and so on and so forth. But we need to go back and then only can we establish the actual cost of hosting this conference,” Sinimbo says.