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Author: Daniel Steinmann

So there’s a Minister for Africa in the UK, so what?

Perhaps the West does not realise how they insult us when they always carry on about Africa this and Africa that, as if this massive, diversified continent is one big political entity. Do the Brits have a minister for Asia or North America or South America or even one for Aussie Land? I doubt it very much. Do not think they are alone in this, Germany also sports a so-called Minister for Africa. Africa is a continent, nuckleheads, and a massive one with many independent countries, at least 54 but depending on your definition of the disputed territories, it may be 56. This fact, the obvious dispute over the exact number of jurisdictions, is used by many African critics to tell us just how backward we are, we do not even know our own territories. To them I have only one question: are Israel and Palestine one country or two? To the rest of the ignoramusi, imagine what an insult it would be to the ever-so-sensitive Yanks if the UK had a Minister for North America. I mean, Mexico, Nicaragua and Costa Rica are just as much basket cases as the worst African countries, and technically they are part of the North American continent. So why not throw them all together in the same rotten basket and appoint one official to oversee relations with them all, including the mighty...

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Regulator disrupts commercial networks country wide. Losses run into millions of dollars

Namibian banking services and other vital services country-wide were in disarray last week Thursday when internet services for approximately sixty commercial clients were suddenly interrupted. The black-out lasted more than 30 hours and it was only late on Friday that internet services were restored. The backbone of the economy was essentially disabled for almost two workdays. A high-level technical team from leading South African commercial internet company, Internet Solutions, arrived in Namibia this Tuesday 20 June, to start negotiations with the Communications Regulatory Authority of Namibia (CRAN) and to start the process of assessing the damages and direct financial...

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As always, a joy to take the city’s business to the people on the ground

A presentation for the members of the Summerdown Farmers Association again brought the stark realities of the agricultural sector to the fore. And while all the farmers may not fully understand the technicalities and the terminology, they certainly know what credit is, and what it means to their farming operations when there is a shortage of this vital component. I always enjoy my presentations to farmers associations. Farming is an activity that operates 100% in the primary sector, but without the backing of big capital like the mining industry. Farming is essentially a one-man operation and although a farm and its owner or owners often may not technically comply with the legal definition of sole proprietor, where the farmers deals with the elements on the operational side, or the bank manager on the financing side, it definitely conforms to the definition of sole proprietor. Farmers do not have the luxury of the capital market, nor can they issue debt letters to prospective investors. Each farmer is for all intents and purposes on his or her own. To survive in an environment like this requires a very special type of entrepreneur. This inherent uniqueness is also illustrated by the type of questions they usually ask after the presentation. All the farmers in the Summerdown meeting understood the concept Private Sector Credit Extension. They may not know how the index is...

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It is not additional debt, it is tapping the credit strength of the African Development Bank

There certainly is room for irony in politics and economics. Earlier this week the Minister of Finance gave us an update on how strong or weak the economy is right now. Nothing new was said except for some sober views on the detail of the N$10 billion “loan” we are receiving from the African Development Bank as bridge financing to paper over this year’s budget deficit. I think it was a good point by the minister to remind us that this financing comes in tranches and that everything is in place for the first N$3 billion to be transferred. That should make a substantial difference to government cash flow, and I am sure the sinking construction sector will be extremely glad to hear this news. However, it is paragraph 20 of the minister’s statement that caught my eye: “This is not an additional loan but a budget financing mechanism.” Does this imply, the loan, or facility if you want to call it that, will be forgiven after 15 years? I doubt it. The fastest way for the African Development Bank to shed its credibility is to acquire a debtor that will eventually turn into a creditor. Be that as it may, the way it was presented is probably just a play on words to make the idea of having to borrow from a private institution to cover the deficit,...

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Company earnings are negative across the board. Business confidence at an all-time low

According to the latest Money & Banking statistics released on Wednesday 31 May 2017 by the Bank of Namibia, the annual growth in new credit to the private sector has fallen to 8.1% at the end of April. This continues a trend which started in 2014 and has not let up since. The overall slowdown in credit demand is reflected in both of the two subcategories, commercial and private, although the shrinking in the latter only started the current trend in 2015, about one year after business credit began slowing down. By the end of April, the demand for credit by businesses, has come down to an annual growth of just 7.2%. This must easily be the slowest growth since 2009. Similarly, private households only took up 8.7% more credit than a year ago. This is the slowest growth since 2014. Measured by Credit Type, it is significant that Overdraft Credit has jumped steeply in Februrary this year, and has remained at an annual growth rate around 12.5% although this is only at the same level it was around the middle of 2015. Looking at the broader picture, these rather disappoiting money stats show that only operational credit has improved this year. Investment credit has been on a three-year decline and seems set to continue declining. This is a clear signal of a pervasive lack of business confidence. Effectively,...

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The loo can let you know it does not feel well by sending you an SMS

The concept the Internet of Things have moved into the buzz phase. As recent as two years ago, it was just a novelty, now it is moving into the application stage and in some cases, it has even become commonplace technology, that is, if you happen to stay in the right country or the right city. However, here in our beloved sandy, bushy patch, the Internet of Things is still only an idea. We read about it, and we experience a low-level version of its application in some fancy, pricey cars, and for those who can afford it, the ability to download and watch movies live, but that is it. We are not yet at the stage where the fridge orders milk and bread, the car takes itself for a service, stocks for critical medicines are ordered automatically, farmers monitor their water troughs, and the municipality reads your water and electricity consumption from an automated console. The applications are far from mature and the learing curve is still steep while the concept is evolving by the day but that it can be done, is beyond doubt, and that it will become a very significant part of everything we do everyday, is also a given. I believe we are only at the very beginning when it come to the Internet of Things. And while some of the proposed applications are...

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Property delays are arguably one of the biggest inflation drivers

The link between inflation and poor service delivery surfaced this week when two unrelated events both pointed to the economic damage arising from an inefficient bureaucracy. Speaking to long-standing employees representing several municipal departments at the City of Windhoek, a universal complaint was that they had to train new, young, inexperienced staff members all the time. Although it was not stated as such, I gathered from this remark, the City has now cottoned on to the pervasive government practice of placing more emphasis on being an employment agency than being a service provider. In another high-level meeting, one of the organisers pointed out to me that the delays experienced with the approval of building plans at the City of Windhoek, can add anything between 20% and 40% to the initial planned costs for medium and large construction projects. “With sizeable developments, it often takes two years to get through all the regulatory hurdles before construction can begin” a sour-faced former property developer said. “Depending on where in Windhoek, this unforeseen escalation in costs can be as high as 10% to 15% per year. If the project is stalled for 2 years or more, the first bill of quantities can be tossed out of the window” I was told. And then in no uncertain terms, my correspondent said “Now isn’t that the real cause for the exhorbitant property inflation we...

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More Kudu suitors appear after London gas conference

Renewed interest has surfaced in the Kudu gas field when two representatives of Petrofund attended an oil and gas conference in London. After the conference, oilreviewafrica.com released a report indicating the possibility of a sponsor or investor for developing Kudu, saying that this may become reality before the end of this year. Over the years, the Kudu gas field has attracted many potential investors in a variety of partnerships and joint ventures. Eventually, all of them have evaporated leaving behind strong clues that the project is not viable. Meanwhile, the momentum was maintained by a string of learned opinions all stressing the importance for bringing Kudu’s gas to shore to fire an 800 mW power station, if we were to avoid a local energy disaster. This was more or less mainstream thinking marred only by the fact that none of the many attempts to get the project off the ground, produced any tangible results. Kudu was discovered in 1974 when Anglo American drilled a single hole to verify the assumptions derived from analysing a score of 2D seismic surveys. The first well proved the existence of a gas field without any additional quantitive work. As far as I know, two more wells were drilled, again to test assumptions about the extent and depth of the gas-bering layers. Then the project was shelved, changing hands many times over the past...

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