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We are a Copy and Paste nation

By Twama Nambili, Chevening Scholar reading an M Sc in Corporate Governance and Business Ethics at Birkbeck, University of London. He is the founder of Investor Network of Namibia.

01 December 2016 – From legal policies to economic goods and services, I see a continual trend to copy foreign ideas and implement them in Namibia as they are implemented abroad.

The way customers and businesses in Namibia view South Africa and Namibia interchangeably worries me. As it stands, Namibians’ demands, tastes and purchasing behaviours are assumed to be the same as or highly akin to that of a South African consumer. Hence, we have businesses copying and pasting business models straight out of South Africa, and marketing/implementing them as they are in South Africa.

Of course this strategy works at the moment, but it works because of our economic and structural ties to South Africa and other countries and little due to competition across various Namibian industries. However, people will begin to wise up. A few companies, I have noticed, are starting to understand their market and break their strong ties to South Africa or whatever country they have adopted their business model from. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with South Africa. South Africa prospers because businesses there understand and serve the needs of their markets. But we are not South Africa, China, India, the UK, the US, or Germany. We are Namibia. It’s a different market, with different needs and tastes that need satisfying.

A business that succeeds and performs well in the market is one that adapts and integrates its products and services in response to local demands and tastes. One needs to understand that if a business is working in a specific area or country, there is a good reason why it works there. This is not to say that following a standardized business strategy will not work, it just means that a standardized strategy becomes very hard to implement when dealing with a market that is rich in unique culture or tastes, or when dealing with competitors who pay attention to local consumer tastes.

I don’t like to point specific fingers so I will not mention specific companies, but hopefully after this, you will know that you need to stop and move to some kind of change. I understand that some will have a different view, and that is fine, but this way of thinking and approach to business is worth pursuing.

My advice to start-ups and existing businesses, large or small, is to start doing proper research on your market demographics, for each of your business locations. Identify trends and understand how you can meet the needs of your customers and then build your business model around addressing the needs of those customers. A business model can always change over time, because the needs and tastes of customers always change.

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