SACU arrangement not fair – NCCI
The Namibia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NCCI) has called for greater protection of the country’s fledgling industries that are at the mercy of the big South African companies.
NCCI President Taara Shaanika said his organisation has supported the granting of infant industry protection for some of the sectors in Namibia, as this will allow them to take off.
He said the has realised that for as long as Namibia is part of the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) where only one member out of the five-member union has a developed industry and manufacturing capacity, it will be difficult for the other four member states to develop manufacturing industries because this member [ South Africa] has a habit of dumping products therefore other member states are not able to develop their own industries.
“A good example is the chicken price. You can go to any South African retailer in South Africa and you will see that the prices you get there are the same prices that we get here in Namibia. Clearly you cannot sell the same chicken at the same price that you are selling at source. You can’t sell at the same price that you sell in Namibia because you have transport costs to add into Namibia. Clearly they don’t want Namibian chicken to take off. So it will be difficult for the industry to take off as long as we are members of SACU. I am not saying we must leave SACU but there is a need for some degree of fairness and fair competition in the SACU market. At the moment it’s skewed; some guys are allowed to dump their products.”
He added that the current SACU arrangement is benefitting South Africa more than any other country in the five-member trading block.
“If one were to suggest the dismantling of SACU, South Africa would probably be the first country to defend SACU and try not to do so. They have these four countries as their captive markets. Some industries in South Africa have even divided SACU amongst themselves. You operate in Namibia, you in Botswana, you in Swaziland and you in Lesotho; I don’t come to your market if you don’t come to mine.” Shaanika claimed that the reason why Pretoria Portland Cement is not operating in Namibia is because Holcim is here. “Holcim said: look I am here and you are not allowed to come here and I won’t come to your market – that kind of thing.”
He said Namibia and the other three states were only seen as markets not as producers of products and there is no effort by South African companies to support any industrialization in these countries. “So I think we need to review the SACU regulations, but most importantly we need to make use of the infant industry protection clauses in the SACU agreement and therefore we don’t understand when people are objecting to infant industry protection because we will then be able to create a better manufacturing base in Namibia.” “Some people argue that the consumers will suffer and a lot of other stories which are created by South African companies. I don’t know whether we want to protect the consumers at the expense of the growth in the economy. What we are doing should be aimed at achieving long term growth for the Namibian economy and not just to protect short-term gains for the consumers.” “Ultimately these consumers also need employment for them to be able to consume at higher rates but we cannot create the type of employment that we want to create unless we can have industries that become sustainable and that can supply products to consumers.”
The NCCI boss argued that ultimately prices will go down when Namibian companies begin to export chickens to South Africa and play in that market. “We will then allow them to also come here and then we will be able to achieve prices that are acceptable to the consumers,” he added. “We have seen what has happened to Namibian Breweries. They have been manufacturing here, they have been given some unofficial protection. They have achieved a great deal of success in South Africa and elsewhere. Today they are one of the few Namibian companies that are exporting to South Africa and that is the way to go. We need to have more Namibia Breweries type of businesses that are exporting into South Africa. South Africa should also be a market for our products not the other way round.”