Commercial Discrimination Remains Rife in Northern Namibia

Gideon Kapuka

Despite Namibia having a consumer protection bill, citizens in the northern regions continue to face significant discrimination in the commercial sector.

This issue has deep historical roots, dating back to colonial times, when economic policies and practices were designed to favour certain regions and populations over others.

Unfortunately, these inequities have carried over into the modern era, manifesting themselves in discriminatory practices in the commercial sector.


Several areas highlight the ongoing discrimination faced by northerners:

  1. 1. Car insurance rates: Residents often encounter higher car insurance premiums compared to their southern counterparts.

For instance, a study by the Namibia Financial Institutions Supervisory Authority (Namfisa) in 2022 revealed that car insurance premiums are, on average, 15 to 20% higher in northern Namibia than in other parts of the country.

  1. 2. Quality of clothing products: The availability of high-quality clothing products is notably lower in northern towns.

A 2023 survey by the Namibian Consumer Protection Organisation found that 65% of consumers reported dissatisfaction with the quality and variety of clothing products available to them, compared to just 30% in the southern regions.

  1. 3. Access to corporate services: Essential corporate services, such as banking and telecommunications, are often of inferior quality or less accessible.

A 2022 report by the Namibia Statistics Agency (NSA) said 40% of the population in the northern regions had limited access to banking services compared to only 15% in the south.

In addition, a 2023 report by the Communications Regulatory Authority of Namibia (Cran) indicated that the northern regions experience 25% more network outages and slower internet speeds than the southern regions.


A significant factor in the perpetuation of these discriminatory practices is the role of shop owners.

Many business owners in the commercial arena perpetuate these inequalities by implementing disadvantageous pricing strategies.

A 2023 study by the Namibian Chamber of Commerce and Industry found that prices for basic goods in northern shops are, on average, 10% higher than in similar stores in the south.

In addition, they deliberately stock lower-quality or fewer products in northern stores; a 2022 market analysis showed that 70% of northern shops carried fewer high-end electronic products compared to shops in the capital city, Windhoek. They also provided substandard customer service, with a 2023 consumer survey indicating that 55% of northerners rated customer service in their area as poor, compared to 25% in the southern regions.

The impact of these discriminatory practices is profound.

It not only limits the economic opportunities for individuals and businesses in the north, but also perpetuates a cycle of poverty and underdevelopment.

The poverty rate in northern regions is 45%, compared to 25% in the southern regions, according to the NSA (2023).


The continued economic marginalisation contributes to a sense of disenfranchisement among northern residents.

Addressing these disparities requires a multifaceted approach.

First, the consumer protection bill needs to be rigorously enforced to ensure that all citizens, regardless of their region, enjoy equal access to quality services and products.

Government agencies should increase oversight of business practices to prevent discriminatory pricing and ensure equitable distribution of goods and services. Public awareness campaigns can empower northerners to demand fair treatment and better services.

In addition, supporting local entrepreneurs in the north can help create a more balanced and inclusive commercial landscape, especially given that only 20% of small and medium enterprises in Namibia are based in the northern regions, as reported by the Namibia Investment Centre in 2023.


It is essential to strengthen the enforcement of consumer protection laws and enhance regulatory oversight to ensure fair pricing and quality standards.

Public awareness campaigns should be launched to inform consumers of their rights.

Supporting local entrepreneurship through financial incentives, training and resources can boost the local economy.

Improving access to financial services and investing in infrastructure will create a more conducive environment for business operations.

Providing subsidies and grants, facilitating better supply chains and establishing regional development funds will help level the playing field.

Lastly, fostering collaboration between the government and private sector will enable comprehensive strategies for equitable economic development.

While the consumer protection bill is a step in the right direction, its effective implementation is crucial to eliminating entrenched discrimination in the commercial sector.

It is imperative for both government and private sector stakeholders to work together to ensure that all Namibians, regardless of their geographical location, can enjoy equal opportunities and access to quality services and products.

– Gideon Kapuka is a researcher, writer and business consultant;

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