Private sector speaks out against NEEEF bill
Management participation and shared ownership were the two key issues in the NEEEF Bill which participants at a consultative meeting in Windhoek listed as disruptive.
Business owners and entrepreneurs from all spheres of the private sector held a consultative meeting this week with regard to the implementation of the New Equitable Economic Empowerment Framework (NEEEF) Bill and drafted their complaints and recommendations to be forwarded to the Office of the Prime Minister before the end of April.
The meeting, organised by the Namibia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NCCI) was held at a Windhoek travel lodge and moderated by Mr Tarah Shaanika, the Chief Executive Officer of the NCCI.
In his opening remarks, Mr Leonard Kamwi of the NCCI secretariat gave an overview of the presentation and raised a few pressing matters regarding the NEEEF bill. “There are some pillars that are problematic, this includes the management and the ownership pillar”. Kamwi said.
The NCCI official elaborated that the government needs to prove that businesses benefitted from colonial policies. Some participants in the meeting pointed out that many businesses started after Independence and did not benefit from the country’s colonial policies. Kamwi then stated that the ownership pillar could potentially disrupt the micro–economic stability of the country, further referring to Zimbabwe as a good case study as a large portion of Namibia’s population also lacks individuals with the right skills and expertise to manage a business.
Another issue raised on the empowerment framework was the prevention of black entrepreneurs selling shares to white entrepreneurs. The majority of business owners objected to this as it violates their fundamental constitutional rights to Freedom of Association. Kamwi also raised concerns that a few businesses may miss out on profitable business deals due to technicalities in the NEEEF Bill.
Furthermore, the evasive language of the bill was criticised as the term “previously disadvantaged” could be inclusive of the black elite and it was thus recommended that the term be changed to “the currently disadvantaged”.
With regard to practicalities of the bill, business owners requested that the office of the Prime Minister provides procedures on how the bill would be implemented as entrepreneurs that are sole proprietors could find it cumbersome and penalising to give up 25 % ownership of their enterprise or practice. It was further suggested that the government should set a threshold clearly indicating which business are eligible for the framework, for example with regard to the size or style of a business.
The Chief Executive Officer of the NCCI in his closing remarks emphasized that the implementation of NEEEF at this point seems inevitable however he stated that compromises must come from all sectors to ensure that the bill only be implemented in a suitable manner.