WINDHOEK: Lack of access to funding and poor access to technology to manufacture products are some of the challenges faced by small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to penetrate the water sector in Namibia.
Chief Executive Officer at the Namibia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NCCI) Tarah Shaanika raised the concern on Thursday during the first-ever Water Investment Conference organised by the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry (MAWF).
He said Namibia has the potential to develop a viable water-based industry and a thriving SME sector with the capacity to supply products and services to the water sector.
However, the SME sector is faced with many challenges, because there is a general lack of entrepreneurship in the country, according to Shaanika.
“Challenges facing SMEs are the lack of technical capacity to innovate and develop products and/or services, which can capture the imagination of the water supply industry; procurement systems are not favourable for SMEs; as well as the capacity to research on new products, and support from education institutions in terms of research,” he stressed.
Minister of Agriculture, Water and Forestry (MAWF) John Mutorwa said at the opening of the conference on Wednesday that there is room for private sector intervention in the area of services and trade, which will lead to the creation of jobs and local manufacturing of equipment and spares.
This will also go hand-in-hand with the reduction of costs involved in importing.
Shaanika then recommended that SMEs identify products, which are currently procured from outside, and support local manufacturing of such products and promote joint venture partnerships between existing players and local enterprises to build local capacity.
He also suggested that SMEs should implement procurement systems with stronger bias towards local enterprises, but not compromise on quality and standards.
SMEs should also improve and expand vocational training to develop skills targeting water sector-based products.
Shaanika explained that SMEs can be sub-contracted by large contractors; manufacture water-related products; and can supply chemicals and other water treatment-related products and services.
SMEs can also provide and maintain water supply infrastructure such as pipelines, dams, pump stations and boreholes.
At the moment, most products and services are procured by the water supply industry from outside Namibia, and many local enterprises serve as agents for foreign suppliers (middlemen) to supply products and services.
Shaanika emphasised that there is a clear lack of trust for new entrants in the market by the water sector, as new entrants find it difficult to be accepted.
“Namibia has the potential to develop a viable water-based industry and a thriving SME sector with the capacity to supply products and services to the water sector. Water supply security is a critical ingredient for economic growth and diversification,” he added.
Meanwhile, CEO of NamWater Dr Vaino Shivute said in his presentation ‘Overview of bulk water supply in Namibia’ earlier that water supply infrastructure is very expensive.
He made the example of a 1.4 metre diameter pipe, which costs about N.dollars 10 000 per metre or N.dollars 10 million per kilometre.