Pupkewitz’s 95th birthday wish... Intermingle foreign and local expertise in business

BUSINESS mogul Harold Pupkewitz has lambasted the Ministry of Home Affairs and Immigration for its tardiness in issuing work permits to some experienced and highly qualified foreign experts who apply to come to Namibian institutions to impart knowledge and skills to local students and employees saying this can only harm the country’s development initiatives.

Pupkewitz made these remarks at the inauguration of the Polytechnic of Namibia’s (PoN) business academy that has now been renamed Harold Pupkewitz Graduate School of Business (HP-GSB) on July 14, 2010 which was his 95th birthday.

Pupkewitz said a study conducted a few years back by an African professor in Kenya had indicated that for every highly skilled executive in the country, 18 jobs are created, hence Namibian authorities need to polish their act when institutions such as the University of Namibia and the Polytechnic need to acquire skills that are not available in the country.

“I then tried to mention and emphasise the need for granting employers more freely and more quickly work permits to employ persons with the skills and experience not obtainable in Namibia so they could grow their businesses and employ more people. I was successful eventually, but the general outcry about the delays and the lack of understanding of the need for granting work permits quickly is still with us. And so our economic growth leading to creation of jobs is retarded unduly,” he said.

The event, befitting of a man who has contributed immensely to the growth of Namibia’s business for many decades, was graced by several guests, ranging from academics to politicians and businesspeople.

Pupkewitz also said there was urgent need to churn out more artisans and engineers to meet the needs of a growing economy and moving more in the direction of industrialisation. These industries, he said, include manufacturing, processing, packaging and packing and “are much more job creative than, for instance, mining.”

“We must also move much - very much - faster in the field of agriculture, not only producing better yields, but also a bigger variety of crops, producing a surplus convertible to cash and in so doing improving the lives, the quality of life of the rural communities and slowing the migration to the towns, which results in creation of slums, increasing unemployment, growth in criminality, etc. So, we need more agriculturists, agronomists and more. to demonstrate how we can improve the preparation of their lands for yielding better crops and producing a bigger variety of foods,” Pupkewitz said.

At the occasion, Pupkewitz donated N$10 million to the school, a gift that was described by President Hifikepunye Pohamba as “the largest contribution by a single individual to an education institution in the history of Namibia.”

In a speech delivered on his behalf by the Education Minister, Dr Abraham Iyambo, the President said he could not think of a more fitting way of honouring “this Namibian business icon than naming and baptising this business school after him - the Harold Pupkewitz Graduate School of Business.”

A standing ovation and congratulatory messages for Pupkewitz were made. The President also thanked Pupkewitz for changing the lives of many young Namibians over the years: “Today is a day of celebration on many levels. In addition to the inauguration of the Harold Pupkewitz Graduate School of Business, we are also celebrating the 95th birthday of the man who will lend his name to this school of business. Congratulations, Uncle Pupkewitz may this day be a blessed one for you and your loved ones. You are a constant source of encouragement and infusion of hope. You rose to the top of the Namibian business landscape from very humble beginnings and your example of hard work and perseverance is an inspiration. You deserve a standing ovation.”

Pupkewitz said he was deeply honoured to have been part of the business school’s inauguration, hence his response to the plea of the rector of the Polytechnic, Dr Tjivikua to fund N$10m for the establishment of the business school and have it named after him.

“I offered to pay in five yearly tranches of N$2million each. The first two were, of course, paid on due date in 2008 and 2009 and I decided to speed up the process and so paid N$3 million today. The balance shall be paid next year, whether I am alive or not. It gives me great pleasure to express my satisfaction with the progress of the HP-GSB made to date. I shall increasingly support the teaching institutions that produce faster output of specialists to create a better balanced situation in providing the market with a better balanced yearly crop of people to serve it.”

President Pohamba likened Pupkewitz to successful businesspeople such as Aupa Indongo, Punyu Shikale, Werner List, Richard Branson, Sam Walton and Bill Gates who are now remembered for changing people’s lives through their innovative ideas. He urged the HP-GSB to produce competent graduates who would carry on from the legacy left behind by their benefactor. He said business schools such as the HP-GSB need to infuse a professional code of conduct that recognizes the obligations to society.

“This code must be required in formal business education and would represent a social contract with society. Managers need to promise that in return for allowing them to control the organisation’s assets and economic opportunities, they will ensure that members of their profession will behave effectively in executing the tasks entrusted to them and will conduct themselves with integrity to the benefit of all society. This is what we expect from those who will graduate from this business school,” the President said.

He said some of the strategic objectives set out to achieve Vision 2030 and the National Development Plans were aimed at creating sustainable economic growth, an adequate supply of qualified, productive and competitive labour force and innovative and productive usage of technology.

Rector of the PoN, Professor Tjama Tjivikua acknowledged Pupkewitz’s contribution to the business school saying the Council of the Polytechnic had approved the naming of the new Graduate School of Business after him without any objection.

Currently the HP-GSB enrols about 130 students and offers two programs – the Master of International Business (MIB), accredited by Europe’s FIBAA (Foundation for International Business Administration Accreditation), and the MSc in Leadership and Change Management with Leeds Metropolitan University in the United Kingdom. According to Prof. Tjivikua, new programs that are relevant to Namibia’s current and future needs would be introduced as the demand grows. The centre is headed by Professor Viola Cruse, who is the Director and falls under the Faculty of Business and Management at PoN.

Tjivikua said it is common practice internationally for universities to recognize very large, pioneering or high-impact grants to the institution by naming a program or building after an influential person.

“Universities also confer naming rights to honour exceptional or long-standing service by eminent academics or administrators, civic or political leaders, or philanthropists. This is particularly the case with Business Schools where it is common practice, and thus, the Harold Pupkewitz Graduate School of Business.

After all, his contribution to the Namibian economy and thus his iconic status in business present convincing arguments for this occasion, and raise the school’s public profile to encourage other corporate partners to associate with, and make their own investments directly in, the School, or in particular programs and activities in the school,” Tjivikua said.

Tjivikua added that business schools are prestigious building blocks of universities where business leaders are trained and qualified. And for as much as they are proving grounds for theories and practices, he said, the business schools were also good places for personal and professional networking.

According to him, the need for a business school in Namibia was buoyed by the fact that there exists a wide gap within human resources structure and therefore the need for more educated, qualified and experienced persons across all the sectors of the economy was of absolute necessity.PF