Investment at all levels essential

WINDHOEK, AUG 15 – A short while ago I was honoured to be invited to the Economic Growth summit
in Windhoek. This conference was created to lure potential investors to
Namibia from overseas, but also get local organisations to crack open their
wallets and pledge to aid our economy. As a young entrepreneur it was great
to be able to rub shoulders with some truly powerful people representing all
manner or corporations and institutions. They were all there to pledge and
seemed determined to really give the Namibian economy a much needed shot in
the arm.

With all the pledges and totals tallied up, a whopping N$50 Billion was
pledged in one form or another. Loans being made available, monies released
that were earmarked for investments and infrastructure projects being
developed. The amounts flying around were mind-boggling and that’s where I
started having some concerns as the owner of a small Namibian start-up,
LEFA. Our ride-hailing app has been active for about 18 months and continues
to go from strength to strength with more than 2,000 users a month and still
growing. Keeping the roads safer and ensuring less drunk driving incidents
as well as generating income for the drivers. One barrier to further growth
is lack of access to financial resources for investment purposes.

Every start-up needs resources to be able to develop, expand, improve
service delivery and reach a stage of critical mass where due to its size it
start turning over money and generating income to stay afloat and start
making a profit. My spirits were up with the Growth Summit, as I assumed
there would be money earmarked for smaller SME’s, kickstarting the economy
starts at a grassroots level and people that are entrepreneurs can and will
start employing others. Without having a hugely costly infrastructure to pay
for in the form of overheads. However, where an investment of one or two
million Nam dollars would give the boost that a small organisation needs to
survive and flourish, it seems that unless you are asking for N$ 10 million
or a multiple of that, investors just aren’t interested.

This is a shame as in other countries, investing in tech, or providing a
good and conducive environment for start-ups and giving them access to
funding has allowed them to flourish. Creating numerous success stories,
apps and tech that we all use and benefit from. Creating something along the
lines of a Tech-Fund to fund small potential tech-start-us could be
exceedingly lucrative, just look at the first investors in Facebook, YouTube
and many others. There’s definitely nothing wrong with investing in major
and capital projects and infrastructure, Namibia certainly needs that.
However, without entrepreneurs, small business owners and people willing to
take a chance to create something from nothing, we will be doomed to
stagnate. Our ride-hailing app has proven to be a success and there’s real
money being generated. The sticking point remain; without the relevant
investment the organisation can’t grow. This means that not only do we need
investment, but we need the investors to have realistic expectations of
returns and the timeframe within which these returns can be realised. Also
without putting insurmountable caveats on the potential loans.

Smaller investments can and will pay off big time, especially if the
business already has a track-record. Investing one or two million should be
a lot more palatable than having to invest 200 million, yet it seems a hard
concept for people to grasp. I am on a path to change that. Let’s really
make Namibia an attractive and stimulating place to start a business with an
investor-friendly environment.even for the small guy with the big ‘proven’
idea! – NDN Staffer