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SMEs key to urban development

The social upliftment of disadvantaged communities is only possible when money is invested in the business initiatives of local communities, says Santos Joas, executive director of the Urban Trust of Namibia.
“The best way to invest in a locality is by investing in small business so that the money circulates, as long as possible, within the community. In this way, local people benefit rather than only concentrating on attracting foreign or big investors that take money out of the community,” Joas says.
The Urban Trust, which was established on 1 June 1994, is a non-governmental organisation which aims to promote policies for balanced urban and economic growth. The trust also seeks to improve the living conditions of low-income communities.
According to Joas, the trust’s main aim is to facilitate and promote discussions between the communities and local authorities and to run programmes aimed at empowering small and medium enterprises.
He further said that the organisation does not see government as an enemy but as a partner in (urban) development as it is up to all stakeholders to bring about development.
“Still, we want to push the government to deliver on their responsibilities on a national, municipal and regional level because we want an enabling environment for all to play a meaningful role,” said Joas.
“Overall, Namibia has made remarkable achievements since independence, but a lot of challenges still remain. And that is why we are looking at crime prevention as one of our long term projects,” he said.
Joas explained that his organisation is focusing on crime prevention as it hampers development. “If we only focus on the aftermath then the person that committed the crime once out of jail will do the same thing again and government will have to spend more money on building jails so what we want to do is prevent them from going to jail in the first place.”
Joas said that there are many reasons why people turn to crime. “We need to identify them and tackle them from the onset. This include investing in long-term programmes in good parenting, youth initiatives, as well as after school activities.”
This year, the Urban Trust of Namibia will also be focusing on working with communities and their local authorities through its Local Economic Development Project, in order to promote investment in  small and medium enterprises.

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