The conference took place at a local hotel on Friday, and was organised by the northern branch of the Namibia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NCCI), following the decline of cross-border trade at the popular business centre of Oshikango.
Oshikango was a lucrative and attractive business centre not only for locals, but attracted Chinese, Indian, South African, Portuguese, Pakistani and Iranian traders among others who set up shop at the border town with ventures that primarily targeted the Angolan market.
Now that the Angolan economy is recovering following years of civil war, many businesses have relocated across the border.
NCCI president, Martha Namundjebo-Tilahun described the conference as a public-private dialogue aimed at reviving the declining business activities at Oshikango, a suburb and business centre adjacent to the northern Namibia-Angola border post in the Ohangwena Region’s Helao Nafidi town.
“Oshikango was one of the fast-growing business centres in Namibia in terms of business activities and money changing hands,” Namundjebo-Tilahun told those in attendance.
She explained that Oshikango’s target market is Angola, but business activities have, however, declined in recent years, and raised a concern with investors, while employment opportunities are being threatened.
“Hence the need to deal with the cause of this decline,” Namundjebo-Tilahun charged. Members of the Oshikango Business Association suggested the activation of a trade facilitation commission as soon as possible to deal with what they termed ‘unfairness in cross-border trading at Oshikango’.
Limited circulation of American Dollars, which was implemented both at Oshikango and in Angola during the past few years, was identified as one of the contributing factors of the poor business performance at Oshikango.
“Business is about trade creation and facilitation. We have the finances, but we face the problem of accessing the Angolan market,” said the chairperson of the Oshikango Business Association, Raed Hijazi, during the meeting.
Speaker after speaker, including Trade Deputy Minister Tjekero Tweya, advised the business personalities of Oshikango to understand how to position their businesses in the community to attract customers.
“Your focus should be to diversify your businesses, and instead of concentrating only on retail businesses, you should also consider manufacturing goods,” Tweya urged.
The envisaged technical committee will conduct a study on the critical difficulties facing cross-border trade at Oshikango, and report on its finds to a similar meeting to be held at Oshikango before the end of April this year.
Stakeholders to delegate members to the said committee include the Bank of Namibia, Ministry of Trade and Industry, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Home Affairs and Immigration, Namibian Police Force, University of Namibia, Ohangwena Regional Council, NCCI and the Helao Nafidi Town Council.