MANY small and medium businesses in the Oshana region have been forced to shut down due to the economic downturn caused by Covid-19 and its offshoots, but hope for a recovery still lingers.

The region’s economy mainly comprises small businesses in the informal economy and well-established businesses catering to over 250 000 people.

Towns such as Oshakati, Ondangwa and Ongwediva accomodate most income-generating activities, and the surrounding areas largely feed off subsistence farming.

Oshana governor Elia Irimari says despite the challenges of Covid-19, the high unemployment rate and business opportunities drying up, support will be extended to local businesses to ensure their recovery.

“Businesses are relying on our services now more than ever to sustain their operations, hence we should create synergy to promote and develop local businesses. Trade activities have declined with the reduction in the tourism sector, therefore it is our obligation to fast track the implementation of government programmes to induce growth,” he says.

The region hosts the biggest northern trade fairs, such as the Ongwediva and Ondangwa trade fairs,which have all been called off for this year, but local authorities in the region had an opportunity to promote trade activities and attract investments in the region in 2019.

Irimari says these prominent trade exhibitions are crucial in strengthening the business sector – particularly through the support they offer the SME sector.

During the last financial year, the Ministry of Industrialisation and Trade has facilitated the registration of 478 new businesses in the region.

“I wish also to commend the Namibia Chamber of Commerce and Industry branch offices and our business people for their continued support of local businesses to develop, because business growth is the greatest impetus for socio-economic development. It is important that we support local businesses to increase their productivity and profitability – especially during the current challenging times,” he says.

Irimari says access to finance for start-up capital remains a challenge in the region.

The Development Bank of Namibia (DBN) has since its inception in 2013 made significant investments in the Oshana region’s local economy, having invested an amount of N$44 million in commercial property development, N$84,5 million in manufacturing, N$152,6 million in housing, N$71,7 million in education, and N$16,8 million in tourism and hospitality.