The newly-appointed Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Namibia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NCCI), Charity Mwiya (CM), shares her vision with the Windhoek Observer (WO) answering questions posed to her regarding pertinent matters of the Chamber.
WO: Now that you have been appointed the substantive CEO of the NCCI, kindly share with us your vision for the organisation?
CM: My priority is to strengthen the capacity of the Chamber’s Secretariat as NCCI is a membership organisation and needs to function well at grassroots or at branch level. In the larger towns where NCCI branches have been inactive, the local business community must be helped to organise themselves so that those branches can be reactivated and be effective in their service delivery.
Where there are active branches, my next focus of attention is to ensure orderliness in terms of compliance with the Chamber’s constitutional provisions, money matters and administration. This will be done by putting in place structured induction and training for the elected leadership at branches.
Where the NCCI does not have branches, the focus will be on identifying potential leaders among the local business community, and to then engage with them to establish a local branch of the Chamber.
WO: What are you going to do differently that has not been done by previous leaders?
My predecessors each had their own way of doing things and leadership style, and likewise I have my own. They (my predecessors) all contributed to NCCI’s development and did so in the manner that was appropriate and applicable during their tenure. So they are acknowledged for their achievements and it is amateurish to try to measure oneself against others. However, being a results-oriented person I prefer tackling a task or responsibility in a manner that reflect the outcome of a targeted result. So I want to see results reflecting the initially intended outcome.
WO: What are the areas that you think need urgent attention?
CM: Topping the list is ensuring that NCCI as the premier voice of business works closely with the other stakeholders – government, labour and civil society – to ensure that Namibia’s economy is back on a growth trajectory. Swiftly regains its sparkle.
NCCI must step-up its advocacy role, proffer solutions on how the business environment can become more business-friendly, the economy more inclusive and starting or growing a business less daunting for Namibia’s entrepreneurs.
WO: Why should a business now consider becoming a member of the NCCI under your leadership more than before, what are the benefits?
CM: Because it is their conduit to influence change at local and at national economy level. As this comes across as a laudable or lofty ideal it might not be sufficiently enticing, especially for those in the business arena who like to receive tangible benefits from being a member. So my team and I at the NCCI’s Secretariat will be exploring tangible benefit possibilities. This could include, among others, discounted rates for NCCI members from service providers.
WO: When it comes to your branches, what is going to be done to bring unity and purpose among all?
CM: The foundation is already in place and where cracks have developed they need to be fixed. In short, where there has been backsliding on the part of certain individuals, remedial action will be in the form of engagement. Thereby helping any misguided individuals to fully understand that deeds and action of NCCI members are guided by a constitution.
It is also important to understand that leadership in the Chamber is voluntary for a given period. But volunteering is not something to take lightly. It takes time, commitment and effort to be a credible and good leader of the Chamber, both at branch and at national level. Often, Chamber leaders will be expected to review pertinent information, offer input and contribute their time, talent and financial resources. The Chamber needs business leaders that are unifying and have the best interest of the organization and the country at heart, not wanting to make the Chamber adapt to personal interests.
WO: Please kindly clarify the position on the Northern branch?
CM: The NCCI is guided by one constitution which is clear about its structures. Our branches are based in local authority areas, not regional.
In terms of our constitution, branches should be established in each city, town, village or settlement to organise and represent the interests of our members in that particular area. In the case of the north, such branches exist in most towns such as Oshakati, Ongwediva, Ondangwa, Eenhana, Helao Nafidi, Okalongo, Outapi, Okongo, Okahao, Oshikuku, Ruacana, Omuthiya and Tsumeb. Those branches are accorded the same status as other branches such as Windhoek, Walvis Bay, Swakopmund, Rundu and Katima Mulilo, to mention a few.
The so-called northern branch is not provided for in the constitution. It existed prior to proclamation of several local authority areas in the north but was replaced by branches which got established in several local authority areas in the northern regions of Oshana, Ohangwena, Oshikoto and Omusati.
The issue of having the constitutionally non-existent northern structure has been discussed and decided on by the Board and the National Council before. It is not new or only brought up now. Infact last year I together with one of the past NCCI Presidents, Dr Leake Hangala, visited the north when representatives from all our NCCI branches in the north were invited to a meeting held in Ongwediva on 02 March 2018. This issue was clarified as most of the leaders in several of those branches complained about the illegal structure. They were frustrated with the endless intrusion of an illegal individual in their jurisdictions claiming to be a leader of a non-existent northern branch, which was also misleading our members and stakeholders.
It is infact the implementation of the single account and uniformed membership database following resolutions taken by the National Council in December 2017 that a lot of loopholes and irregularities have been uncovered in how some branches have been administered by certain individuals who have been running them for their personal interests. These findings will be revealed to delegates at our upcoming AGM. So, I am not really interested in the little noises and some reverse psychology being played in the media to deceive the public- the truth will prevail.
It is important to understand that the Chamber’s role as Namibia’s premier voice of business has its genesis in those early days of independence, when private sector representation in the country comprised of several representative bodies. A plethora of separate and frequently conflicting chambers existed at the dawn of independence, sadly all structured along racial and linguistic lines. There was no unified business sector representative body or national chamber of commerce and industry with membership truly reflective of Namibia’s demographics. Obviously this did not augur well for the newly independent nation. So a visionary cadre of entrepreneurs and corporate leaders took a bold step and put in motion the creation of a national business sector representative body. At this juncture it is important to acknowledge the pioneering role of individuals such as Rick Kukuri, Navin Morar, Christie Benade, Jochen Sturm, Aupa Frans Indongo, Albi Bruckner, Eckard Schleberger, Anne Gebhardt, Joan Guriras and others.
Despite all the odds stacked against them, those individuals, supported by many others, worked tirelessly to establish a truly national business sector representative body. We can’t thank them enough for what they did to ensure that Namibia’s private sector had a voice!
Gaining credibility as a reliable and dependable partner of government, labour and civil society took a great deal of effort. Past prejudices were set aside and a fragmented private sector united, institutional capacity built, projects and programmes crafted and put in place to accelerate participation by all Namibians in the mainstream economy. Over time the NNCCI evolved. It graduated from being a body where chambers in towns around the country did their own thing, not always in step with or aligned to Namibia’s economic development goals and objectives. That body that those visionary women and men created became the forerunner to this grassroots business sector representative body, the NCCI.
As articulated in Article 6 of its constitution, the NCCI has become a truly national business sector representative body. An organisation with a secretariat responsible for managing its day-to-day affairs, centralised accounting, with branches across the country all working in harmony to ensure that the Chamber is Namibia’s private sector’s premier voice of business, governed by one constitution. We are saying structures must exist and be run in terms of the constitution and as things are now, the northern structure is not constitutional and is not recognised by the organisation. We cannot be taken back into history where insincere individuals who infact do not even represent any business want to force themselves to run the Chamber on regionalism and tribal lines.
WO: What is the NCCI going to do to address businesses concern regarding the tough economic conditions in the country?
CM: The Chamber has and will continue to work with the other stakeholders, being government, labour and civil society, to address such concerns. However, the time for merely highlighting concerns is a thing of the past. It is our responsibility as NCCI, Namibia’s premier voice of business, to proffer solutions. To articulate how things could and should be done differently. So Chamber members must continue sharing views, opinions and suggestions or recommendations on how the country can turn around its economy.
WO: What is the NCCI’s position regarding the tough market conditions for business?
CM: Chamber remains deeply concerned, hence our constant engagement with the other stakeholders.
WO: What is the NCCI’s role when it comes to attracting FDI into the country and are we going to see a more aggressive drive going forward?
CM: The NCCI is the first point of contact for foreigners with an interest in investing in Namibia. We believe the Chamber has and continues to fulfill this role well. Additionally, the NCCI and its members routinely participate in outgoing investment and trade promotion missions.
WO: What is your comment on the view that the NCCI has no teeth to influence or move government policy?
CM: As for influencing change the NCCI’s achievements speak for themselves. On investment, economic inclusivity and bureaucrats according Namibians similar treatment to foreigners selecting to do business in our country. By the way we don’t want to be known as the teeth of team Namibia, but rather as the voice of business that influences change for the better, in a well thought over and clearly articulated manner.