The writing concerns the Minister of Trade and Industry, Hage Geingob, addressing potential American investors to reassure them that the Namibian government is ‘committed to the principles of a free-market economy’ and that the country is ‘amongst those with the best investment climates in the whole of Africa.’
This statement by Geingob is rather strange since the country has one of the most open economies in the world. Namibia is already over-friendly to investors, but yet the people continue to suffer. It is time for Namibians to realise that the economic situation in the country is only getting worse due to this export-led strategy, in other words, the focus is on fitting into the global economy, instead of developing the local economy.
There are obviously no short cuts to economic development, but we must choose a completely different economic path and opt out of this production for the so-called world market. We should divert resources to our own material and technological base. The Namibian production strategy is currently determined by the demands of the consumption patterns in the so-called First World. This is distorting our own economy and depriving us of the capacity for a self-sustaining growth, which is a pre-condition to real internal development. The foreign investors are simply here to exploit us and not to assist our development. So why are we begging them?
We have become mere providers of raw materials, instead of developing technological skills and investing in advanced machinery which are also pre-conditions for real economic development. Our conclusion is that the current political leadership is not committed to our people; they should stop serving external interests. We need a complete break with the present system.
Indeed, instead of begging for investment, the real debate should be about the mining monopolies of Namibia (and South Africa) that have been looting the country for so many decades.
As an example, the following is an extract about capital flight from the Journal of Southern African Studies (Vol. 37 no. 1, March 2011, pp. 7-25) in an article called ‘The Nature, Scale and Impact of Capital Flight from South Africa.’ Note that the initial section includes the period when Namibia was still colonised by South Africa:
‘Brian Kahn’s 1991 estimate that total capital flight between 1970 and 1985 amounted to US$15.38 billion at 1985 prices. Mohamed and Finnoff estimated that capital flight as a percentage of GDP increased from an average of 5.4 per cent a year between 1980 and 1993 to 9.2 per cent of GDP per year between 1994 and 2000.
More recent calculations by Newman using the same method found that capital flight between 2001 and 2007 was on average 12 per cent of GDP per year. This figure increased year on year from 2001 and peaked at 23 per cent of GDP in 2007. In particular, trade mis-invoicing remains a significant channel for capital flight by companies.’ This is why we should rather call for the return of all the wealth looted over the decades, instead of begging for foreign investment.
T Itembu and K Basson