Thursday, 16 April 2009

Chinese a good thing for Namibia

Many Namibians have expressed alarm at the number of Chinese workers and business people entering Namibia. The most often heard complaint is that the Chinese are taking work away from Namibian workers because they are “willing to work for too little and much harder – even over weekends”.

Historically since the 1960’s, SWAPO has been a close ally of the Communist Party during the struggle for liberation. After Independence, these ties are still very good. Since 1990 China has provided more than N$ 1,2 billion in concessional and interest free loans. A further US$ 100 million credit line signed in 2007 has not yet been utilised.

Looking at the trade statistics, Namibia already imports 25% of its products (2006), and the rate is growing at 53% per year. (These numbers refer to countries other than SACU members.)

In my opinion the relationship with China is beneficial to our country. One of the most important things we can learn from the Chinese is the ability to work. I believe that rather than complain at the willingness of the Chinese worker, we should emulate their example.

As for the traders that have sprung up all over, this has been a good thing for our economy. It has increased the spending power of our consumers, provided jobs for our workers, and many of these entrepreneurs are marrying into our community. All of these have very beneficial long-term benefits. We must however guard against the creation of “china towns” that will lead to segregation rather than integration.

I would further propose we invite the Chinese Government to open a Confucius Institute in Namibia so we can learn more about their cultures, and also have the opportunity to learn the Chinese language. It is a good opportunity for Namibia to offer our country as gateway for Chinese investment in the continent, specifically into the Southern Africa Customs Union.