Demand for Shares is Misguided

Come 2030, “Namibia has a [majority] population of healthy, well educated, skilled, proactive and financially stable people with a broad range of talents… Unemployment has been significantly reduced to less than 5% of the workforce…”.

That is the dream, titled Vision 2030, which Namibia’s founding president Sam Shafiishuna Nujoma and Swapo bequeathed to citizens just before he stepped down in 2005.

By then, many statistics suggested progress: “Monetary poverty”, measured at 27,6% of Namibians in 2004, had reportedly dropped to 17,4% by 2016, according to the Namibia Statistics Agency (NSA).

However, the NSA recently reported “multidimensional poverty” measured at more than 43% of the population, with about 700 000 Namibians expected to rely on food handouts as they struggle to put together a meal.

So, when politicians and their business cronies continue to use demagoguery and rhetoric promising prosperity from natural resources, the masses need to wake up and take stock.

The latest prosperity promise is in the discovery of oil and gas, as well as the experimental green hydrogen industry.

The Namibia Local Business Association (Naloba) is the latest to jump on the prosperity bandwagon. They are urging that the government demand a 50% direct shareholding in the production of oil and gas.

The spin is that this will result in a lot more benefits flowing to the majority of Namibians, as long as they directly own substantial shares in the business of oil.

Politicians are known for making wild promises and having Dutch courage in setting delivery deadlines for long after they are gone.

By the same token, it is understandable why Namibian business people feel entitled to demanding a piece of the action – they have found it easy to line their pockets through government purchasing and public works tenders.

The fishing industry is a prime example of how so-called Namibianisation policies made a few politicians, relatives and their business cronies filthy rich, while money that should have benefited ordinary citizens through our tax coffers has reduced over the decades since independence.

A handful of individuals were given shares and fishing licences in what is a typical rent-seeking arrangement.

Yet the country has little to show in terms of skills and expertise to develop the fishing industry: We are nowhere near the target that 70% of total exports will consist of processed goods, with Namibia becoming an industrialised nation.

It’s less than six years until 2030.

Instead, unsuspecting Namibians are being bombarded with false promises that taking up larger shareholding will guarantee lavish returns for the masses.

The central government and state-related organisations already dominate Namibia’s economy. Yet there’s little to show in terms of benefits for the majority of the population.

Companies like Namibia Wildlife Resorts, Meatco or Telecom, which operate in otherwise traditionally profitable sectors, perennially rely on the government for bailouts.

It is already a huge red flag that the government has committed to pay as much as N$20 billion for a 24% shareholding in Hyphen Hydrogen Energy, a company that officials favoured ahead of several others that are well established.

It’s worse that the country will be forced to borrow money to pump into expensive experiments while it cannot afford to provide basic quality education and healthcare to its people.

It is highly disturbing that the focus is on the government and the rich getting shares in oil production instead of setting solid policies and having the right expertise, combined with integrity, to ensure that oil and gas production generate fair state income to lift the masses out of poverty and despair.

Hardly anyone in the government and business communities are showing the public any practical measures being taken to make transparency and good governance the bedrock of managing and distributing resources.

Mines minister Tom Alweendo is correct when he says Namibian business people must not have an entitlement attitude. Why must public resources continue to enrich a few who show no inclination of investing in the overall welfare of the country?

Namibians must stop allowing themselves to be misled by demagogues and a few greedy people.

Stay informed with The Namibian – your source for credible journalism. Get in-depth reporting and opinions for only N$85 a month. Invest in journalism, invest in democracy –
Subscribe Now!

Latest News