If mentorships and business development partnerships are to work and SMEs to grow and flourish then much more and better data is needed

Namibia has been sliding dramatically down global economic competitiveness rankings over the last decade or so and this trend is set to continue over coming years, according to a presentation by a leading economist today.

Director of the Economic Association of Namibia (EAN), Klaus Schade, doing a presentation titled ‘Namibia in the Global Rankings’, stated that if Namibia wanted to really make meaningful headway on addressing inequality, unemployment and issues related to the business environment, then economic actors and decision-makers need access to many more and varied data sets which currently don’t exist. The production of such data sets would go a long way in measuring to what extent Namibia was making headway in addressing some of the long term challenges faced by sections of the economic landscape, such as the nature and health of the informal and SME business sectors.

At present, Namibia does not have comprehensive data on the informal and SME sectors – such as on the turnover, numbers and sizes of such ventures – and thus measures aimed at assisting in the growth of such enterprises cannot be effectively developed. On top of that, given the government’s push for partnerships between informal businesses, SMEs and more established and sophisticated large enterprises, along with calls for more and greater mentoring interventions throughout the economy, such activities cannot be effectively realised if meaningful data on the various sectors is not publicly available to allow for efficient business-to-business engagement planning and mentorship-pairing. In effect, businesses are required to currently make such overtures to each other blindly and in the dark.

Ideally, the Ministry of Industrialisation, Trade and SME Development should be making such data available, but this is not the case.

Against the backdrop of government consistently touting the transformational objectives of its New Equitable Economic Empowerment Framework (NEEEF), it should be cautioned that proceeding with potentially highly disruptive economic interventions in the absence of important and necessary data sets against which to benchmark and assess the interventionist case and progress could hamstring and even derail economic transformation and empowerment efforts and significantly damage the economy.

Furthermore, all investors require access to current, comprehensive data sets to make their investment decisions, and the continued absence of such data sets could discourage much-needed investment in the Namibia economy, at a time when the country needs every economic boost it can get.

Access to data and open data should really now become the principal cornerstones of the drive to transform and grow the Namibian economy.