Consumers need protection
Namibian Manufacturers are currently facing many challenges as a result of the infiltration of foreign retailers in the economy.
Heiko Niedermeier, managing director of NEO Paints Factory, said that although his company is not affected by the import of low quality products, such products unfortunately affect the poor and illiterate consumers mostly because these products are targeted at them.
They require protection from institutions such as the Namibian Standards Institution (NSI), he said.
Niedermeier also pointed out that it is not only the Chinese who import low quality paint, but also South African importers.
He says the greatest difficulty facing Namibian manufacturers is the fact that they do not have access to the retail market, which is mainly South African dominated.
“Foreign owned retailers do not know Namibian brands and they often have exclusive or advantageous trade agreements with foreign manufacturers. The result is that Namibian products do not get on to the shelves,” Niedermeier said, stressing that “the playing field is not level.”
He does not believe that this issue can be addressed by introducing trade barriers or import levies. “These mechanisms firstly often result in higher costs to the consumer and secondly make the manufacturer or producer fat and lazy. When the barriers inevitably fall away, these companies are uncompetitive and go down,” said Niedermeier.
The Ministry of Trade and Industry, the Competition Commission and other bodies are currently investigating other mechanisms to address the issue.
Niedermeier believes that Team Namibia could play a stronger role in ensuring that Namibian consumers buy Namibian products because it will ultimately benefit the country’s economy and future. “It is unfortunate that they do not have a clear message to the consumer regarding what is Namibian and what is not,” he concluded.
NEO Paints, a member of the Namibia Manufacturers Association (NMA), is a wholly owned Namibian company and has been manufacturing paint products for 57 years in Namibia. NEO Paints has become a household brand and is a major player in terms of market share in the country.
Niedermeier said that the company owes this success to consistent quality of products and services.