Three individuals who recently died are recognised for placing service above self and for ingenuity. Two of the deceased were entrepreneurs and the third, a policeman.
Hans Kress started his policing career as a recruit and over the years climbed the career ladder, becoming the commander of a police training college in Lahr, a city on the western edge of Germany’s Black Forrest region.
On retirement, Kress settled in a cottage on a farm 40km west of Windhoek.
For two decades, Kress raised mega dollars by using his Rotary community service club connections. The funds upgraded student hostels, teacher accommodation, kitchens, ablutions and created computer and study centres at Baumgartsbrunn, as well as other farm schools. Kress placed service above self, never craving acknowledgement.
Otto Mühr started his men’s clothing outfitter and in later years, the business was taken over by his son, Erno Mühr.
Erno Mühr grew the business to an extent that Otto Mühr & Co became Namibia’s go-to men’s outfitter. Over five decades, Mühr, assisted by friends and others, served the community in many ways through their Round Table and Rotary clubs. This included among others, raising funds to buy land and construct the Oponganda Community Centre in Wanaheda. Mühr and his fellow Round Tablers and Rotarians never sought any recognition or reward.
Then there is the entrepreneur Johnny Maritz, who passed away last week.
Following the collapse of his herb infused beverage business venture, Maritz never gave up on his entrepreneurial dream. In pursuance thereof, he searched for and discovered another business opportunity.
Commodity Exchange was established in 1994, as the Namibian agent for medical products suppliers in South Africa.
In the 1990s, HIV-AIDS was a critical public health issue in Namibia, and it remains a challenge to this day.
Initially, Maritz’s fledgling firm imported and supplied condoms to Namibia’s public and private health sector, but in his innovative style, he also explored value addition options. This resulted in the business sourcing unchecked, unlubricated and unpacked condoms in bulk from producers in south-east Asia, then completing the manufacturing and product packaging processes locally. This resulted in shipping freight cost saving, lower foreign currency outflows and local job creation.
There was a gain for other Namibian firms too, as product packaging was sourced locally. The local market need for condoms was satisfied and the firm even exported condoms to neighbouring markets.
A shared character trait of entrepreneurs is to constantly search for the ways and means to grow a business. So, it is unsurprising that ambitiously, Maritz decided to replicate the partial production of other products. Following market research, he identified pharmaceuticals and went about the business of replicating his condom business model: bulk importation, quality testing and local packaging.
Evidence shows that in a developing economy with an intent to expand its industrial base, value addition is a sensible starting point for local manufacturing. Others failed to share his industrialisation vision and soon, Maritz’s business ran into trouble with funding institutions. Given time, the wisdom in pursuing such a strategy will manifest itself.
There are many people like these three who worked for the benefit of others and their country, yet remain unrecognised.
- Danny Meyer is reachable at firstname.lastname@example.org
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