Select Page

Narrower external deficit masks economic despair

Narrower external deficit masks economic despair

By Gerrit van Rooyen
Oxford Economics.

The current account deficit narrowed in Q3 2019 compared to the same quarter in 2018, but this belies an economy that remains deep in depression. The narrowing of the external deficit stemmed mainly from lower imports of fuel, vehicles, and machinery, which reflects weak domestic economic activity and lower global oil prices. Meanwhile, exports of diamonds and tourism revenues were especially disappointing.

The goods trade deficit narrowed to N$5.6 billion in Q3 2019 from N$6.1 billion in Q3 2018 thanks to the import bill declining more than the reduction in export receipts during this period. The value of fuel (-12% y-o-y),vehicle (-21% y-o-y), and machinery (-18% y-o-y) imports fell the most, largely reflecting an economy which is on track to record the sharpest contraction since at least 1993, while the average Brent crude oil price was also lower in Q3 2019 relative to a year earlier.

The decline in imports offsets the slump in diamond exports (-36% y-o-y) as well as significant declines in food and live animal (-23% y-o-y) and processed fish (-5% y-o-y) exports. The slide in exports was mitigated by an increase in ‘other’ minerals products (16% y-o-y) thanks to improved exports of gold and zinc.

Namibia continues to source most of its goods imports from South Africa (67%), followed by China and the eurozone. The country mainly imports fuel, vehicles, and machinery from South Africa. Namibia’s leading export partners are the eurozone (26%), followed by South Africa (25%), Botswana (14%), and China (11%).

Exports to the eurozone consisted mostly of beef, processed fish and diamonds. Looking at non-goods trade, Namibia’s services account recorded net outflows of N$481 million during Q3 2019 compared to net inflows of N$850 million during the same period last year. The subcategory that declined the most in the services account was personal travel services (a proxy for foreign tourism earning), reflecting a decline in intentional arrivals.

Meanwhile, net primary income inflows of N$234 million were recorded inQ3 2019 compared to outflows of N$585 million in Q3 2018. The positive balance on the primary income account is mainly due to an increase in investment income, particularly income on reserve assets and portfolio investment. Lastly, current transfer rose to a surplus of N$4.8 billion Q3, largely thanks to an 8.9% y-o-y increase in Southern African Customs Union receipts.

The De Beers rough diamond auctions in Q4 2019 continued to disappoint, which indicates that Q4 will be another dismal quarter for diamond exports. Food exports, which are suffering due to drought and depleted livestock and fish population numbers, are also unlikely to bounce back in the near term.

To make matters worse, the closure of the Skorpion zinc refinery from November 2019 to February 2020 will hit zinc exports, one of the few bright spots in the current account, in Q4 2019 and Q1 2020. On the other hand, continued weak economic activity and lower oil prices compared to 2018 will keep the import bill in check. Hence, we expect the country will record another current account deficit in Q4, which will be a drain on foreign reserves. However, we do not expect the decline in reserves to be significant enough to place pressure on the sovereign credit rating or the currency regime.


About The Author

Guest Contributor

A Guest Contributor is any of a number of experts who contribute articles and columns under their own respective names. They are regarded as authorities in their disciplines, and their work is usually published with limited editing only. They may also contribute to other publications. - Ed.

Following reverse listing, public can now acquire shareholding in Paratus Namibia


20 February 2020, Windhoek, Namibia: Paratus Namibia Holdings (PNH) was founded as Nimbus Infrastructure Limited (“Nimbus”), Namibia’s first Capital Pool Company listed on the Namibian Stock Exchange (“NSX”).

Although targeting an initial capital raising of N$300 million, Nimbus nonetheless managed to secure funding to the value of N$98 million through its CPC listing. With a mandate to invest in ICT infrastructure in sub-Sahara Africa, it concluded management agreements with financial partner Cirrus and technology partner, Paratus Telecommunications (Pty) Ltd (“Paratus Namibia”).

Paratus Namibia Managing Director, Andrew Hall

Its first investment was placed in Paratus Namibia, a fully licensed communications operator in Namibia under regulation of the Communications Regulatory Authority of Namibia (CRAN). Nimbus has since been able to increase its capital asset base to close to N$500 million over the past two years.

In order to streamline further investment and to avoid duplicating potential ICT projects in the market between Nimbus and Paratus Namibia, it was decided to consolidate the operations.

Publishing various circulars to shareholders, Nimbus took up a 100% shareholding stake in Paratus Namibia in 2019 and proceeded to apply to have its name changed to Paratus Namibia Holdings with a consolidated board structure to ensure streamlined operations between the capital holdings and the operational arm of the business.

This transaction was approved by the Competitions Commission as well as CRAN, following all the relevant regulatory approvals as well as the necessary requirements in terms of corporate governance structures.

Paratus Namibia has evolved as a fully comprehensive communications operator in Namibia and operates as the head office of the Paratus Group in Africa. Paratus has established a pan-African footprint with operations in six African countries, being: Angola, Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zambia.

The group has achieved many successes over the years of which more recently includes the building of the Trans-Kalahari Fibre (TKF) project, which connects from the West Africa Cable System (WACS) eastward through Namibia to Botswana and onward to Johannesburg. The TKF also extends northward through Zambia to connect to Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, which made Paratus the first operator to connect the west and east coast of Africa under one Autonomous System Number (ASN).

This means that Paratus is now “exporting” internet capacity to landlocked countries such as Zambia, Botswana, the DRC with more countries to be targeted, and through its extensive African network, Paratus is well-positioned to expand the network even further into emerging ICT territories.

PNH as a fully-listed entity on the NSX, is therefore now the 100% shareholder of Paratus Namibia thereby becoming a public company. PNH is ready to invest in the future of the ICT environment in Namibia. The public is therefore invited and welcome to acquire shares in Paratus Namibia Holdings by speaking to a local stockbroker registered with the NSX. The future is bright, and the opportunities are endless.