Namibians must be wary of poisoned JVs

THE growing number of local companies who are being relentlessly duped in poisoned joint venture arrangements not only warrants urgent redress from responsible authorities but also compels Namibians to be more vigilant before entering these business marriages.

Confidente has on numerous occasions reported how foreign firms, particularly the Chinese and more recently, the Icelanders have abused local companies which they used to gain entry and access to the country’s lucrative natural resources.

It is regrettable that local partners often do not pay attention to the fine print and end up being booted off projects once the season to harvest proceeds arrives. This week, Confidente reports how three local JV companies who were in partnership with an Icelandic company are being shoved off a fishing vessel which they have invested in for many years and now face accumulative losses of up to N$176 million.

We recall that Confidente in recent years also reported that China Harbour Engineering Company Limited (CHEC) which was awarded the N$3.2 billion Namport terminal expansion project in November 2013 after it had partnered with local contractors as a pre-requisite for the tender award, sidelined them and no interventions were made with the direct benefits that were supposed to come to Namibians lost.

These and more cases are reflective of systems with loopholes that have seen many of these JVs end up in legal battles with partnering firms who were meant to create jobs, together spending more money attempting to outwit each before the courts.

The sad story of how Namibians continue to play second fiddle to the Chinese with responsible authorities sitting and folding their hands must stop. A re-evaluation of the real benefiters of capital projects needs to be initiated.

Capital projects are meant to benefit the natives including the surrounding communities through creation of jobs and credible contribution to socio-economic development and local growth whilst the value of Black Economic Empowerment is vehemently upheld.

Policy interventions that can ensure that such joint ventures are able to be controlled in such a manner that the envisaged benefits are met could go a long way in ensuring that capital projects have actual trickle down benefits to the ordinary Namibians.

The Procurement Act makes it clear that government must ensure that it creates opportunities for the people and for their benefit too.  If that is not happening then there is every justification to relook at what could be done to achieve those goals.

While policies are imperative to address the growing concerns in poisoned JVs, local businesses themselves need to take responsibility and ensure that they enter into partnerships that are well structured to benefit them and other Namibians. They have the ultimate responsibility to safeguard the resources of the country and how they are utilised to the benefit of the Namibian people.

We also urge business people to aim to increase their capacities so that in the near future, joint ventures will become unnecessary for most capital projects.