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Author: Daniel Steinmann

Getting rid of cheques is all well and fine – until the system breaks down

Internet services were interrupted this week Thursday when Telecom’s servers fell over. This is not a first occurrence as data lines were also intermittantly on and off on Tueday but this mostly affected wi-fi services. Thursday was much more serious eventually turning into a nightmare for hundreds of companies that had to make PAYE payments on the 20th. It is not so much the unreliable internet connectivity that upset the business community. In a sense we have become used to the fact that data lines are often overwhelmed by surges in traffic and then the system crashes, or at least those functions in the internet backbone provided by Telecom stop working. Usually these interruptions are solved quickly and the data lines are up within half an hour. But Thursday proved to be the unexpectd exception. Full internet connectivity was restored only after three o’clock in the afternoon. What upset the business community was the frosty reception at the Receiver of Revenue. When it became critical to process electronic fund transfers, many businesses realised they are running out of time. In Windhoek, this led to a rather substantial stampede to the Receiver’s service hall. Shortly after lunch the usual single queue where the completed PAYE forms together with the proof of electronic payment, are submitted, has grown to a considerable length. But these submissions were a formality. Those businesses probably...

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As the Rand goes down, our international commitments go up

As the latest spate of Zumantics continues to cause serious economic fall-out for our southern neighbour, our umbilical link to South Africa’s economy again becomes an issue to be scrutinised. Where Namibia is most compromised is with its currency. De facto, the Namibia Dollar and the South African Rand are the same thing. We can cloak the distinction in fancy jargon like “legal tender” or “par value” or “one to one peg” but all these only serve to reinforce the common perception that it is one and the same currency. This puts us in a rather tight spot. We are also, like many other African countries, the struggling owners of a London-listed Eurobond. But unlike all our continental peers, ours is still rated investment grade, and I am sure we would like to keep it that way. Enters the South African government and its hazardous political gyrations. This lead to their downgrade as a currency issuer implying that the credibility of the currency is also at stake. Next to consider is an investment technicality called mandate. When investment managers register new funds, one of the elements that have to be clear to investors, is the fund’s mandate. In other words, the investment manager commits to a certain risk profile, asset selection and quotas. This functions like a pre-investment guarantee to potential investors. Therefore, when a fund’s mandate exclude junk...

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Reality hit Air Namibia in the wings on Friday

The Air Namibia early morning flight to Cape Town was delayed this Friday. That in itself is not very significant, airline flights are delayed all the time the world over for various reason. This could be anything from weather to technical problems to operational problems to security. It could even be the result of an abrupt policy change like what happened when the USA decided it will no longer receive visitors from certain Muslim countries. Air Namibia’s Cape Town flight was delayed because one of the engines on the Airbus A319 would not start. This is the type of problem the pilot only detects after all the passengers are in the cabin. One does not start a jet engine when passenger are still crossing the apron. Everybody had to disembark while the engineers tried to finger the fault. But the flight was not delayed for half an hour or so, it was first delayed until 15:00 on Friday afternoon. But late on Friday afternoon, it was still stuck in Windhoek after the passengers have been sitting for almost two hours in the “replacement” unit. Whereas any big international airline will simply reschedule or redirect other aircraft to stand in for a stranded unit in their fleet, with Air Namibia it is unfortunately far more complicated. The airline operates only four A319s and only ten airliners in total. So, in...

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When oldest and youngest science promotors meet, great work can be expected

Namibia’s oldest promoter of science this week signed a comprehensive Memorandum of Understanding with the newest science kid on the block. Helmut Bistri and Waltraut Fritzsche of the Namibia Scientific Society received the Chief Executive of the National Commission for Research, Science and Technology, Dr Eino Emvula (centre) on Thursday this week to sign the Memorandum formalising the relationship between the society and the commission. The signing ceremony was witnessed by Maria Andimba and Iyaloo Kandjabanga of the Science Commission and Dr Michael Backes, Gabriele Moldzio and Alfred Schleicher of the Scientific Society. Under the Memorandum of Understanding the...

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Katuka women jump ahead with Emotional Intelligence

The second round of training for mentors and mentees in the 2017 Katuka Mentorship Programme was conducted during the week. From an initial focus on the mentor / mentee relationship, the approach in the regular training sessions has now shifted to specific items and topics in which the Katuka women feel they need more guidance. After the orientation training in February, specific areas of training for the individual mentors and mentees were identified. This week’s training amplified the initial training to prepare both mentors and mentees for a meaningful mutual engagement during the course of the year. The advanced...

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2016 worse than 2009, or at least according to the national accounts

OK, so the cat is out of the bag. Economic growth for 2016 is far worse than anybody imagined. Even the Bank of Namibia’s downbeat expectation at the interest rate announcement in February, still hoped for aggregated growth in Gross Domestic Product of 1.6%. Now the Namibia Statistics Agency, without any fanfare, announced officially, economic growth was only 0.2%. This makes we wonder where the Bank of Namibia dug up the 1.6% figure, a statistic that was elevated to gospel status by the Minister of Finance in his budget presentation. Later in the week, the minister had opportunity to responds to some of the issues raised in contributions by Members of Parliament regarding the budget. He used a substantial part of his reply to convince us it is a useless exercise to compare his new budget with the original February 2016 budget. When the Members of Parliament approves the Mid-term Budget Review, that becomes the new Appropriation Bill, replacing the previous therefore any comparison to the original budget is a waste of time. This argument is so vacilating, it is almost comic. As a matter of fact, the minister offered this feeble insight to explain why there is so little difference between the Mid-term Budget Review and the new budget, not, as I would expect, to explain why the economy had such a horrendous crash in 2016. And even...

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New UK fund homes in on African sovereign and corporate debt

A London-based investment manager with a Sigma instead of an Epsilon for a logo, Enko Capital this week announced the launch of its Enko Africa Debt Fund, with an initial US$200 million in assets under management. Alain Nkontchou, Managing Partner of Enko Capital said, “We are pleased to broaden our Africa-focused investment strategies to include a new debt fund which will give our investors an opportunity to capture value embedded within the African fixed income landscape. The launch of the debt fund leads Enko Capital Group closer to its ambition of becoming the leading pan-African asset manager.” Enko stated...

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The budget debate season has begun – sit back and enjoy the entertainment

Now that the debate over the budget has started in the National Assembly, one can expect the emphasis to fall on expenditure. This has been the pattern for many years. Going by this week’s very first contributions, the tune is set to continue playing “What can we get out of it” with only a single contributor focusing on the bigger picture. Fortunately, there is always at least one big gun among the weekly fray to save the debate. It is all good and well that the vast majority of respondents always clamour for more, that a not-insignificant number wants to solve all the economic ills with their own budget, and that the average budget contribution is not worth the paper it is written on. These representatives come from a back ground of ingrained entitlement, and no matter how the budget is allocated, their share will never be enough. I suppose if you call yourself MP, you have to sit through this voluminous drivel to get an opportunity to listen to the odd contribution based on knowledge, wisdom and common sense. I hope that as the budget debate evolves, more people will come to realise that our immediate problem is a funding constraint and that there is nothing wrong with the Namibian balance sheet. But I also sincerely hope that, through the few, better informed contributions, the majority of parliamentarians,...

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