Salt as an industrialization chemical
As part of government’s ‘Growth at Home Strategy’, three strategic interventions are identified, namely market access, transformation and upgrading of local value addition as well diversification in creating an enabling environment for targeted investment promotion campaigns.
An overview document availed to the Economist, compiled by the GIZ on the Ministry of Industrialisation, trade and SME development in promoting the competitiveness of the Namibian Economy come 2030, identified one of the sub sectors that justify intervention as the chemical industry, especially Salt and derivates which has a comparative advantage because of abundance of resources in the country.
According to the document, Phase 1 of the six targeted sub-sectors as part of the Special Industrialization Programme purpose is to increase the contribution of manufacturing to GDP by increasing growth in sub-sectors, expanding industrial output, developing and strengthening existing value chains.
“Namibian salt is mostly exported as raw materials to neighbouring countries for value-adding-processes such as chlorine and caustic soda production, animal feed supplement, refined table salt for human consumption,” the document noted.
“The major constraints that hamper this infant national industry is mostly confined to cleaning and painting products. Lack of highly skilled labour and wider economies of scale are also another constraint coupled with high transport costs and the need for cost-effective solutions due to high local costs which are energy-intensive.”
In their observation they said that the potential for salt as a chemical offers many unexplored manufacturing opportunities as the country is an important producer of cheap solar, trona and sulphate-rich salts.
In turn the value chain of salt and its derivations holds further potential. In the proposed interventions, the document suggested the launch of a salt-chlorine industry development programme that will conduct a feasibility study on strengthening and upgrading the salt value chain, exploring the variety of applications, e.g. in water purification, electrolytes, OPVC components, food , agriculture and other industries.
“The manufacturing of mineral fertilizers also holds opportunities for the production of phosphate and other by products from existing mining and processing operation and identify entry points for further interventions,” the document further explained.
By the year 2020 the share of manufacturing and services are expected to create an additional manufacturing employment of 10,000 jobs and a contribution of 80% to the GDP.
Meanwhile, with regards to the institutional set up the Namibia Industrial Development Agency (NIDA) as the core implementing agency will fulfil key functions such as research on new opportunities for value addition and development of key industrial and business infrastructure.
One Namibian company to mention, Walvis Bay Salt Holding produce in excess of 700,000 tonnes of high-quality salt per year. The total operation covers an area of 4 500 hectares from 50 million tonnes of seawater.