SMEs and their role towards economic freedom

SMEs and their role towards economic freedom

Namibia missed out on an excellent large-scale socio-economic development opportunity during the last 20 to 26 years to seriously support, develop and grow the local manufacturing and service capacity of the emerging local SMEs.

This lost large-scale socio-economic development opportunity would have by now enabled a large number of the local SMEs to potentially graduate to various large-scale industries which would have further made Namibia an export-based country in the manufacturing areas of office and school furniture, steel, garments for school learners, the police and armies among others.

This negative oversight, whether by default or design, has, without a doubt, created a national dependency syndrome which is not at all sustainable towards the long term socio-economic development aspirations of the country.

This sad state of affairs has, as a consequence, left the country with many unemployed citizens, with a high level of poverty and an extreme pressure on the local SME business communities to either downscale or even close down altogether.

In retrospect, coming fresh from a protracted war for independence through the sweat and blood of its indigenous people, the political and economic leadership at that time was supposed to have known that a truly independent nation is one that should be less economically dependent on the outside world for its survival and development.

The leadership also knew at that time that the majority of the citizens were and are still the youth and that deliberate large-scale socio-economic development programs to transfer the necessary technical skills in various areas of manufacturing should have been sought and aggressively invested in, so as for the nation to be less reliant on the outside world. This was unfortunately not done or achieved and as a consequence the many problems and challenges now being faced by the nation.

Namibia at independence further had the support of the international community through foreign aid or investment that could have assisted it to further build its human capacity and industries in large numbers in various areas in such ways that it eventually becomes less reliant as a new and independent growing nation among others.

This lost opportunity presented the nation with many options among which was to deliberately identify socio-economic development programs that could have trained and educated many young people in various areas in foreign countries to acquire the necessary theoretical and technical know-how, which will in return contribute to the medium to long-term socio-economic development aspirations of the country.

The positive identification of education as a major investment priority area by the political leadership at independence as a driving force to achieve the nation’s national development goal to become less self-reliant on others was the right one, but it alone in the absence of parallel support from other state organs will not do much to dampen the situation.

With that said, there are many manufacturing areas such as in uniforms, beds, tables, desks, chairs, curtains, toilet paper, window frames, bed sheets, shoes, socks among many others for schools, the police force, the army and for the private sector that could be locally produced.

As a result of the above, the country could have over the years produced many local carpenters, welders, plumbers, electricians, garment technicians, engineers etc., with the subsequent large numbers of supporting soft skill personnel in the areas of accounting, information technology and office administration.

The further positive knock-on effect in successfully achieving the above areas of manufacturing and service provision will be the sustained ability to export the above-mentioned goods and services to other countries, a positive situation which could bring in large amounts of foreign currency into the country. The deliberate large-scale support in the above-mentioned areas among others could have potentially dampened the prevailing socio-economic situation and challenges that are now currently facing the nation.

The continued lukewarm approach by the relevant authorities to aggressively redistribute wealth through the support and the large-scale capacitating of the local SME manufacturing and service sector is however directly contributing to the dismal negative state of the country. The further unwarranted large-scale support of foreign and well-established businesses at the expense of the previously disadvantaged emerging business community is a major contributing factor to the high dependency levels on imported products and services.

The continued dependence on large quantities of imported products and services has hence without a doubt negatively affected the growth potential of the local SMEs and if not reversed in the short to medium term could further push the nation and its people to the brink of extreme poverty and large-scale destitution.

This serious imbalance in the lack of ability to identify, acknowledge and rectify this lost local economic development and empowerment opportunity will henceforth in the medium to long term continue to haunt the country for many years to come. With that said, all is however not lost provided that the right empowerment polices and large-scale development support programs are identified and implemented accordingly to align the nation to be deliberately less reliant on others. In other words, Namibia and Namibians should at all times come first before anyone else.

• Pendapala Hangala is a Namibian patriot.

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