12 EDITORIAL Friday, July 28 2017 | NEW ERA What lessons to take from Angola’s woes Instead of puffing out our chests, and suspiciously looking at our northern neighbours across the Cuvelai plains, we ought to pause and contemplate our current economical and fiscal problems. Yes, our Angolan brothers did fail to pay on time the money owed to us through the 2015 currency conversion agreement. And yes, they are struggling to pay. Which is the reason they needed to come look into our eyes and make the promise to honour the outstanding N.6 billion. Yet, if anything this should be for us Namibians a lesson in humility. Four years ago Angola would not even have blinked twice at settling a tab of N.6 billion – that was really spare change. But the economy tanked, as economies do these days, and what was once spare change is the most treasured asset. Besides the positive predictions of a good economic growth for this year, and those ahead, there is really no clear affirmation that it would indeed be so. Suffice to say Namibia cannot invest in the hope that the economy would turn around for the good by the end of the financial year, and that 2018 would be a year of bounty and plenty. We too have debts, owing both domestic and foreign creditors. Our Treasury owes billions to local private business entities. Treasury officials are now splitting hairs to evaluate beyond seeing which invoice is fake and which is genuine. They are even looking at the signatures and description of service levels versus the value being claimed. All to save dollars, - yes it is that bad. Cash flow, by the government’s own admission, since the last quarter of 2016, has been tight. Investor confidence has waned – they are holding on to their money to wait for what comes out at the end of the cycle. The lack of confidence extends to bond traders, and others within the money market, who have become averse to our Treasury Bills and bonds. In fact, what the market is doing is to question and doubt our ability to pay back or honour the very money market instruments we are issuing. And it is only five months into the 2017/18 government financial year. Not to scare you, but does it not have similarities with how the Namibian public are doubting Angola’s ability to pay back the N.6 billion? If we do not rein in our fiscal spending, and provide fiscal and economic stimuli now, we may be in this economic downward spiral for a long, long time. Unless, as Angola has now realised, we also look at re-fortifying our public revenue streams, both locally and in the region, that our economy’s linkages to big brother South Africa, and other traditional markets, become more diverse and connected to other markets. Our diamonds can be beautiful but the market will not always buy more of them to line our tax coffers. Angola realised that a little bit too late with their oil. Road safety concerns Why is the first thing always the attitude of drivers, but not the behaviour of pedestrians? You can be driving 60km/h, and hit a person. They will still die. Why does the government not invest in the root cause of the problem, which is the fact that pedestrians are running across that road while traffic is moving? Even the people complaining about taxis – the taxis are not the problem; the customers who flag them down anywhere and everywhere are the problem. The taxi driver only wants to make a living, so I say – start educating passengers and pedestrians to become responsible, then the situations on the roads will also improve. Stop the blame mentality and start the education mentality. Nieuwoudt Boshoff Sad state of public health My heart bleeds when I read these kinds of stories. When you are in a hospital and try telling nurses some facts, they will tell you, ‘if you think you know it all, why are you here?’ You cannot induce a person and she not progress for a whole day while expecting the child to be doing just fine. This woman was already overdue for that matter. Ndessi Mulama
Friday, July 28 2017 | NEW ERA thought leaders Conference must address land holistically, rural and urban >> P15 13 The second land conference built on sand The envisioned second land conference planned for later this year will, in the Namibian context, not achieve anything of substance and the earlier we accept this reality the better. The idea, although grand and long overdue, is from the onset doomed to fail due to a number of fundamental reasons, which, if not addressed in the medium to long term, will further prolong this very important matter to the continued disadvantage of current and future generations. I have identified five very important fundamental factors, which, in my opinion, will render this initiative not worthy of being held at this stage, and in that regard will be a total waste of time and resources for all concerned. For starters, the relevance of land and its historic link to the struggle for our national independence was after post-independence thrown into the dustbin the moment the country embraced capitalism, instead of the socialist ideals which had initially united us to achieve political freedom. This highly unexpected switch to a capitalist society, supported by the I recently read a piece titled ‘Why frican entrepreneurs need to think igger’ in which he challenges Afican entrepreneurs to think bigger n order to increase their chance f getting venture capital funding. For the author, it is not enough o solve local problems; entrepreeurs must think about growth and cale. Also exit while they are at it. he article sounded like an attempt o justify investor bias that was ighlighted in the Bill & Melinda esearch report, called ‘Breaking the attern: Getting Digital Financial ervices Entrepreneurs to Scale in ndia and East Africa’, that reveals hree companies got 72 percent of oney invested in Kenya and 90 ercent of funding for East African intech goes to founders who have ome from outside Kenya. The author begins by narrating an xperience where a start-up failed to rovide due diligence documentaion ahead of an investment. After eading the piece, I felt compelled to nswer with my take as an African ounder, born in France, raised in ameroon and who started a comany from Canada, looking at Africa ith a 30,000 feet view. While I gree with most the issues raised in he article, I think the author failed o pin point one of main reasons willing-seller willing-buyer doctrine, as enshrined and protected in the country’s Constitution, significantly altered any meaningful way or attempt to seriously address the issue of land. The willing-seller willing-buyer principle has to a very large extent put a blank financial price on land that the nation will never, at the current pace, be able to afford, nor significantly distribute for the benefit of the masses. The country and the masses simply don’t have the financial muscles, despite the natural resource endowments, to buy back the country at the desired pace and price from the previously advantaged minority members of our society. The second most important factor is that land delivery in Namibia for the benefit of the masses is to this day not a political priority, hence the very slow pace of its delivery. The petty annual budget allocation to the Ministry of Lands, the low hectares acquired and the number of people resettled over the last 26 years speaks volume and demonstrates the lukewarm approach by the central gov- why African entrepreneurs can’t think big especially when they are local founders. When I started KASI Insight in 2014, I wanted to help solve the data and information gap in Cameroon, my home country. I had just completed a business plan for my sister, who was partnering with a French company to build a meat processing plant in Cameroon. The business plan was full of projections but lacked supportive research and data. How could we reasonably build a case for a meat processing plant when we couldn’t even estimate the meat consumption patterns in the main urban centres? It was a local and personal problem that led me to think about solving the information gap. There is nothing wrong with solving a local problem in Africa, because of the shared characteristics of most African countries, no problem is too little or too local to be solved. When you are born and raised in Nairobi and you’ve never been in Dar Es Salaam or outside of Kenya, it’s understandable that your world revolves around what happens in Nairobi. Sure we have the internet and social media today that gives us the impression that we are connected to the world. Unfortunately it is ernment to an issue of historic significant to the nation. The importance of land has as a result fallen behind other national priorities, such as education, health and – to a very large extent – the construction of government office buildings and national roads. Land, as a strategic national asset, has been left in the hands of individuals to decide among themselves, which in most cases is at the slow pace of the seller to such an extent that there is no pressure to sell. The third most important factor is that there is no clear directive or strong financial support relationship from the central government to the local government to assist in expediting the delivery of land to the masses. So, despite the significance of this very important matter, the central government has outsourced this historic aspect to entities that do not have the financial muscles nor the capacity to fast-track the delivery of land, as it should be. This oversight is a significant contributor to the slow pace of land delivery in the country. The local government entities operate at their own respective paces when it comes to the delivery of land to citizens. The fourth most important factor is that the timing of hosting the land conference sound to argue that our understanding of the world is also a function of the physical connection we have with it. As I put it, “We are human (be)ings, not human (know)ings.” Thinking big is easy and cheap. Acting big is expensive and not a luxury most local entrepreneurs have in Africa. Thinking big and scaling in Africa go hand-in-hand with thinking small and acting local. Starting a business in Africa is hard, very hard. It is very easy to blame the entrepreneurs because they can’t think big or they don’t have an exit strategy. Entrepreneurship in Africa is often a matter of life or death, it is a short-term “bread-winning” necessity for most average less fortunate local entrepreneurs. How do we push them to think big? How do we give them tools to act big? I don’t think African entrepreneurs are not ambitious enough to build global company. Far from it. Tech leaders on the continent have been spending most of their time trying to make Africa an attractive destination for investments and not enough time trying to nurture local entrepreneurs into solving local problems with a wider view. Yes we have incubators, angel networks, pitch competitions – all copy and relative to the current dynamics in the country is being overlooked. Namibia is currently facing an unprecedented financial crunch that has led to dramatic budget cuts that have affected all major aspects and planning of the government. The duration of this financial crunch is uncertain and as such places a burden on the government not to make any significant commitment that it might not be able to afford. This sad situation has in consequence directly affected in the short to medium term the disposable income of many households, of which the affordability of land as was initially intended is now placed further far away from them. Further, the Swapo Party, as the ruling political party is set to host its national elective congress, which will set the nation’s agenda going forward. This political event - albeit internal - would have an impact on the future implementation of the resolutions, as may be decided at the land conference. Last but not least, the land issue as is historically linked to our independence is not clearly understood by many stakeholders, hence the varied expectations. I am therefore at this juncture not even sure if we, as a nation, truly know the value and importance of land as an asset towards mass individual empowerment and nation building. The Namibian landscape is highly blessed with abundant natural and mineral resources, which under the current regime or generation is unfortunately fully exploited by foreign entities to the disadvantage of the masses. In this regard I am not sure the conference will even have the capacity to sincerely discuss such matters and if any meaningful resolutions will be arrived at for the benefit of the masses, as it should be. Land is not as simple as many wish to think or believe. Land is everything and going forward will require sincere and patriotic brave minds to change the status quo. Anything to the contrary will be a total waste of time. * Pendapala Hangala is a Namibian socio-economic analyst and commentator. Most African entrepreneurs think big, they just can’t act on it … And we shouldn’t blame them Yannick Lefang paste models from the US/European style ecosystem. A critical question we could ask ourselves is: Are these models made for Africa? If so, why? When it comes to investors, local entrepreneurs should also be careful when dealing with Venture Capital. It is always unwise to reveal your business idea and your strategy to a stranger even if he or she promises to invest if the business is sound. Always, Always stay one or two steps ahead of to-be investors. It will protect you if your idea ends up in the wrong hands or it will impress the investor if you over deliver. Your team, your dedication and your market (customers) are far more relevant to your success than investors’ money. Business thrive on the availability of markets, you are only as good as there are customers willing to buy what you are selling. Though we believe each entrepreneur could trust their guts for the one innovative and game changing idea, we insist they trust real market data before putting a cent into that idea. Problem identification is not usually a problem in Africa, just take a trip and as soon as you land, you will find gaps and problems to solve. How to solve the problem is usually the issue. * Yannick Lefang is the founder & CEO of Kasi Insight. Yannick has a background in banking, data and statistical analysis with a focus on financial services, telecom and engineering.