Fisheries and Agriculture: the sleeping giants

By Penda Jonas Hashoongo
September 2015
Editors Note

The President of the Republic of Namibia, Dr. Hage Geingob, at a recent launch of a continental publication expressed the need for Africans to, in the larger scheme of things, take charge of their own prosperity. When placed in the context of Namibia, one could easily identify Agriculture and Fisheries as the two sectors that still have a lot to offer where the country’s prosperity is concerned.

The Fisheries sector is one of the more significant contributors to our country’s GDP in addition to coming up with a quarter of the country’s exports on any financial year. This already shows how vital the fishing sector is to Namibia. This figure, however, would give the illusion that Namibians are benefiting immensely from this sector beyond the level of consumption. That would be the case until they find out that the same sector which is responsible for 25% of the country’s merchandised exports only uses 0.4% of the country’s workforce to do so. This is a tattletale sign that the sector, despite its 7% contribution to the GDP, still has a lot to offer.

To put the fisheries sector’s shortcomings into the appropriate context, the agricultural sector, which contributes 8% to the country’s GDP, employs about 25% of the country’s labour force. As both sectors rely largely on exports, the disparity between how many people are employed in each sector does not make sense and shows that if ways can be found to employ more people in the fishing sector, then it would have favourable implications for our country’s economic prosperity.

Much has been made of the Marine Resources Amendment Bill which was chastised for enabling the Ministry of Fisheries to make the marine resources more accessible to the locals. The reservations arise out of the fear that these privileges will be abused to benefit a select few. These reservations, although reasonable, do not offer an alternate formula that the country can use to gain maximum returns from its fishing industry when it is clearly not doing enough to alleviate poverty through job creation.

The only reasonable deduction that can be made from this situation is that the bottleneck lies in Namibians not having enough access to the marine resources because if they did, surely the sector would have created more employment opportunities. An alternative theory could be that the marine resources are being exported as raw or unprocessed goods, which would require minimal man-power and subsequently explain why the country gets so much money from exports while not employing many people. The obvious solution to this would be to allow more processing companies to open up not only to create jobs for the locals but also to enable the sector to reap maximum profits from exports of marine resources such as fish, oysters etc. All these factors are closely related to the Marine Resources Amendment Bill that has been met with largely negative reactions from stakeholders in that sector.

Agriculture, although with a marginally larger contribution to the country’s GDP, compared to Fisheries, also has the potential to maximise on its profitability as economic hindrances still exist in this sector. Chief of these hindrances is the veterinary cordon fence (Red line) which adversely impacts the country’s meat exports. Although this hindrance is not one that can be lifted overnight, efforts should be made to make the northern side of the VCF profitable where Agriculture is concerned. Not much can be done about the natural economic hindrances such as the Food and Mouth Disease (FMD) or the drought conditions that have affected the sector this year, however, measures should be taken to undo the man-made economic impediments.