Dinapama, local manufacturing power machine

By Theresia Tjihenuna
April 2013
Prime Business
As the manager of one of Namibia’s leading textile manufacturing businesses called Dinapama, David Namalenga is living proof that with hard work comes ultimate rewards.

Founded by Namalenga’s team five years ago, Dinapama currently has a clientelle-base that spreads across all sectors.

The name ‘Dinapama’ is derived from a combination of Oshiwambo and ruKavango dialects to mean ‘powerful name’.

“Laziness does not pay,” Namalenga says as he takes a seat in his air-conditioned office at the Dinapama factory where he oversees the smooth running of the factory’s operations.

Raised in a hardworking family at Tsandi Village in northern Namibia, Namlanga’s childhood centered around hard and physical labour as encouraged by his father.

“My father used to run a wood supply business in which he used a donkey-cart to supply firewood to the Tsandi community. My brothers and I would help him deliver the firewood to different households on a regular basis. That was how our family earned a living,” the former Mweshipandeka Secondary School graduate narrates.

Apart from the firewood business, the family man dug wells for water supply and expanded the family garden while tending to the family livestock daily.

Years later, he took up public management studies at the Polytechnic of Namibia (PoN) while juggling a full-time job as a dishwasher at the Kalahari Sands Hotel and Casino [in 1989]. He would be promoted to various posts at the hotel as the years went by. In no time, he landed the shop-steward’s position. But the desire to start up a business burned within him over the years.

He finally resigned from the hotel [after 12 years] to team up with some of his friends to pursue a business venture in the textile industry.

The company that he helped nurture to maturity is now a locally operated textile manufacturing establishment that creates a range of products, from clothing to bags and corporate items.

The company’s quality production has earned the trust of some of the most notable clients, including Government ministries, parastatals, schools, churches, NGOs and corporate companies.

After the closure of Namibia’s first large-scale textile manufacturing factory, Ramatex, in 2008, more than 7 000 people lost their jobs. However, all was not lost as Namalenga aims to fill the gap left by Ramatex through Dinapama.

The factory specifically targets young people to provide them with skills and experience.
“We do not employ people over 35 years of age. The workload here is excessive with long working hours, so employees must be physically able to cope,” he points out, adding that employees are trained on the job and skills are transferred by European experts that he occasionally hires.

When Prime Focus paid a visit to the Dinapama premises in Windhoek’s Northern Industrial Area, employees were hard at work behind industrial sewing machines to meet deadlines. A variety of garments including track suits for schools, jackets for corporate companies and camouflage uniforms for the Namibian Police were being tailor-made.

The company was started in 2010 with a manpower of seven people and four sewing machines under the sole ownership of a Zimbabwean lady called Sandra Manungwa. Namalenga partnered with and worked with Manungwa for a number of years before she left the entire business in Namalenga and team’s hands.

Namalenga and his business partners had plans to expand the business operations, so they purchased as many machines as possible for the factory.

“We distributed loyalty shares to all the employees who started with us at inception and they continue to be Dinapama partners today,” Namalenga says.

Today, Dinapama employs 159 people and aspires to employ 500 more by the end of June this year in a bid to not only increase the scale of productivity but to provide opportunities for young previously disadvantaged Namibians.

Namalenga admits that most of the time, people do not believe that Dinapama is wholly owned by Namibians because of the high quality standard of production it maintains.

“Unlike most local competitors in this business who use South African manufacturers, embroider their logos on the items and then sell them, we manufacture our products,” he beams.

He adds that the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) has been instrumental in the purchase of the factory’s machines. The support from the local business community has also been very promising so far, as many of businesses order goods in bulk on a regular basis.

“We even supplied the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology with conference bags during one of its conferences and the positive feedback we received from it has since inspired us to do more,” he boasts, adding that the factory currently produces only on client orders.

Although it uses raw materials from South Africa, the company intends to go beyond the continent and use Asian suppliers as well.

“The local industry has not yet fully blossomed, so we do not make use of local raw materials at the moment. We, however, hope to in the near future,” he says, adding that, that is why ‘we need local support because we are trying to change the status quo by producing purely Namibian textile products’.

Dinapama’s objective, Namalenga concludes, is to provide employment in manufacturing of garments, “We will not compromise on our high quality in the process, as we also hope to break into international markets soon.” PF