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Give Local Entrepreneurs a Chance

OBSERVANCE OF PERSONAL hygiene and the importance of reducing dependence on others are some of the lessons learnt through the Covid-19 pandemic.

Since early childhood our mothers have taught us to wash our hands before eating and after using the toilet, and to turn away from others when coughing and sneezing.

We now instinctively exercise caution by self-isolating when floored by the flu, and routinely practise social distancing in queues.

Namibians are now also more appreciative of and are paying attention to that clarion call to reduce dependence on importing just about everything – from fruit and vegetables to clothing, footwear, and furniture.

A growing number of Namibians are sourcing and consuming more local produce.

It is important to support local growers, who are mostly small-scale crop and poultry farmers.

Not only do they service consumptive needs locally, but they are also important providers of jobs in their respective communities.

Who cares about a recent development highlighted in the media?

Let those large-scale commercial farmers in neighbouring South Africa whinge and whine as much as they like.

They must work harder to find alternative export markets for their crops and eggs.

The recent visit to Windhoek by a South African trade promotion delegation helped me recall reading about a decision Botswana has made.

As a strategy to grow that country’s micro, small and medium enterprise (MSME) sector, Botswana imposed a ban on the importation of cookies, biscuits, cupcakes, and muffins.

I took the liberty of quizzing one of the trade mission participants on the impact of Botswana’s ban on his cookie, biscuit, cupcake, and rusk business.

He bemoaned the loss of a lucrative export market, but praised the professional way the country’s bureaucrats have handled the matter to such an extent that he could not fault Botswana’s decision.

Apparently before the import ban was imposed, the South African bakery business and its Botswana distributor were invited to a meeting at which public officials convincingly explained the rationale behind the decision.

In short, the country’s government was unapologetic about its strategy to promote the local production of basic consumer products.

Botswana’s government has reportedly also engaged local supermarket chains and informed them well in advance of the impending import ban.

The retailers were urged to engage with the national chamber of commerce and industry for help to identify Botswana’s MSMEs with the potential to bake biscuits, cookies, and cupcakes locally.

Smart move.

Come on, what is so special about baking cakes, cookies, biscuits, and cupcakes that they must be imported?

I haven’t done so yet, but will make it my business to ascertain how successful the import ban has been.

Has it ushered in new business opportunities for bakers?

What is the impact in terms of wealth and job creation?

Don’t get me wrong, I am all for regional integration – the unhindered movement of goods, capital, and people.

It is a sensible economic development strategy.

But regional integration must be done in the spirit of fairness, and to the benefit of all member states in that economic bloc – not by allowing the unabated sale of products which can easily be made locally.

* Danny Meyer is reachable at [email protected]

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