With a clear mission to be fast, fluid and flexible, Fatima Plastics, situated right on the edge of Namibia’s Angolan border is driving growth with a relentless emphasis on quality.
Fatima Plastics, a locally owned manufacturing company was recently recognised with highest honours in world manufacturing scooping the prestigious, World Quality Award in Paris, France, the first in Africa to win this award.
Last month the company won silver in Environmental Friendly Manufacturer at the 2013 Namibia Manufacturers Association (NMA) and was also voted the 2013 Namibia Ambassador of the Year Bronze medallist at the same NMA event.
It is their success turning global competitive challenges into growth opportunities and ability to thrive in times of rapid change that gained this distinction among a national and international audience.
For a company established in 2002 when Helao Nafidi was still a village settlement where they had to bring in 25 expatriates from Pakistan to present day where the land is still not yet proclaimed and where they cannot acquire title deeds for their N$60million empire, Fatima Plastics has survived against all odds.
Today, 115 locals are employed full time, of the 25 expatriates only seven are remaining and much of the managerial positions are filled by locals.
Eveline Sheehama is the export manager, so is the supervisor for the recycling department, the Assistant Supervisor for the Plastic Bag Department, the head of the technical department together with five other supervisors.
Within the coming six weeks, Fatima Plastics will open warehouse in DRC and Zambia and the company attributes its success to its ability to reinvent itself as an ultra-responsive provider of low-moderate-volume parts n the face of rising global competition.
It was only until 2011 that government allowed the company to start selling 30% of its products locally, and judging from the pains of the global financial meltdown, the move paid off.
“We only began expanding in 2005 by increasing the product range. At first we were only concentrating on manufacturing plastic bags but now we make buckets, basins, plastic tables and chairs. Each month we are producing 100 tonnes of plastic material,” says Managing Director Muhammad Saeed.
Without any funding, the initial goal was to exploit a competitive advantage in a marketplace that has been focused on long run production, piece part optimisation and an over concentration of South African products.
“We are located at the Namibia-Angola border, each day we see hundreds of trucks passing through this border, but not a fraction of those trucks are carrying Namibian made consignment. That hurts,” interjects company chairman Aftab Alam.
Fatima stands to transform not only its production processes and systems, enhancing agility and reducing costs in the near future, but also the entire manufacturing industry in Namibia, leading to overall effectiveness and profitability.
“It was only in 2008 when we became an entirely local company that we started receiving appreciation from financial institutions in the country. We cannot talk about the past, how we many times thought of closing shop and leave everything. Rather let’s talk about the present and the future. Electricity in this place is expensive. They are no special tariffs for manufacturers on electricity despite our contribution to the economy. Of course, government has supported us in growing the manufacturing industry by giving us a priority, but there is a need to protect the local manufacturer against those come and plunder our resources and go. Our products are globally certified, why is government not putting tougher sanctions on those that import what is found here? We appreciate what the Investment Centre under the Ministry of Trade and Industry is doing, but it’s time we put a levy on the local manufacturer’s products. We are cheap because we manufacture locally, go into any local super market, you will not find our products, go to Zambia, Angola and DRC, you will find our products. Our biggest customer in Namibia is Fysal Fresh, the rest are foreign,” bemoans Alam.
Operating 24/7, Fatima Plastics will from end of July start producing 150 tonnes, due to the increasing demand from outside.
The major worry with the Angolan market however is the increase scarcity of the US Dollar.
More Angolans and Angolan businesses are using the Kwanza more than the US Dollar, and local banks shun the Kwanza.
The proclamation of the land where this giant factory sits on is far from complete, and without a title deed, the company is not guaranteed of any loans.
Adds Saeed, “That does not bother us. Our biggest lesson is that of hope, we lost a lot of money in the beginning, but now we are seeing the fruits. In fact now I can stand tall and invite more investors willing to take the risk and shout to the world that Namibia is a good ground for investment. Come and start business here. The workers are willing to learn and everyone is like family. The government is continuing with its efforts of facilitating locals with more incentives. The biggest need now is to give more incentive to the manufacturer than the trader. The trader brings and sells and takes away; the manufacturer is here to stay.” PF