Background Circular BioeconomyNamibian Context

The only solution for any agriculture activity is the one where any global environmental impact is absent. Zero carbon footprint and the most resource sensitive processes that are both sustainable and renewable.

What can be done to offset the economic risks and create value chains within Namibia’s borders that will not only create jobs, but also ensure positive outcomes in relation to affordable, locally available and high quality fresh produce. The same for water, energy and transport.

The answer lies in the European model of a Circular Bio based economy. Given the state of affairs of the economy, Namibia can not develop a program that is as time intensive as the European model, however if we start at the bottom, do the little things well and profitable, our economy will eventually flourish at our particular scale.

Asking for assistance from our neighbour countries for their buy in will not only benefit their economies, it will create regional opportunities. The issue here is that those countries are 100% the same as Namibia in their thought process and this will delay any on the ground developments. Talking is no longer enough, actions are needed to show the way and inspire.

By seeing the Namibian economy as one organism that produces and consumes for its own needs with no waste and no negative impact on its environment in a sustainable and renewable fashion, you are seeing a Circular Bio based economy. When all countries eventually operate in this way, humans will start to fix that which we have broken on our planet.

Given Namibia’s unique set of circumstances, the model proposed will differ from larger countries and economies with initial research costs being offset for start up facilities using research and best practise from European commonwealth partners.

This proposed model has been thoroughly researched with self funded work in both practical and academic  fields. The opinions contained herein are only that of the writer with no outside beneficial relationships present.

The Namibian economy has established economic pillars such as Agriculture, Mining, Tourism and others. These entities are removed from one another by means of different policies, governance and importance. By integrating the existing economy into the new model there will be no more separate pillars as each pillar will play a role in supporting the next economic entity in supporting the economic system.

Agriculture, manufacturing, water, energy, transport, education and finance are the key drivers for implementing the changes needed.

 

Agriculture

There are enough arable land and water available in Namibia for crops needed in the food industry (wheat, corn etc.) There are some logistic issues, however given the location of the land it is an issue  that will be managed.

When dealing with perishable fresh produce the start is to use land that is unsuitable for any other use with Hydroponic grow methods as close to market as possible. This will ensure quality food, shorter logistics and lower costs.

Afritree completed a three year research project to experience at first hand how weather, economy, local market trends, labour and crop types all worked together in this unique desert area. We determined best practise for the crop types that will work with specific systems in the desert areas of Namibia. These grow systems will work in any Namibian micro climate to produce similar crops by utilising the technologies identified.

There are tremendous opportunities available for any Namibian willing to invest and work in Agriculture and Horticulture. The caveat is that technology and best practise needs to be followed without which all efforts will account to zero.

The use of Glass greenhouse technology needs to be promoted in Namibia. Previous objections that were based on high set up and operational costs are now no longer valid as the higher price of produce and efficient growing methods are making a strong business case. Growers are not farmers. Horticulturists don’t focus on animals, the same way farmers who are involved in animal husbandry should focus on their sector. The biggest mistake growers and farmers make is that off being bigger brings more income, which could not being further form the truth.

As a grower it is sometimes better to grow four cycles a year and not push for five cycles. Its’ all about looking at the market, labour & available resources, in a sense managing your risks vs reward and how these actions will impact the following years planning. Our Horticulture systems operate and produce 365 days a year and enables precise planning and higher yields possible in the field, while using less water and other resources.

Water

With limited resources comes greater responsibility to look after those value resources. Putting proper management systems in place, ensuring quotas for output. Offering people potable water at an affordable cost.

Energy

The current electrical supply in Namibia is primary imported from neighbouring countries. This situation causes electricity to be disproportionately more expensive than what the competitive neighbour countries. For the Namibian economy to become truly competitive it needs to have access to cheap electricity when and where it is required. Expensive distribution lines are not the solution and disruptive new ways if generating and storing electricity is required for Namibian business and its economy to become effective from a cost perspective when competing on the world stage.

The good news is that the technology and systems are commercially available now to ensure that Namibia can have access to low cost uninterrupted electricity. The mind shift required to move in this direction has been restricted for an extended period of time. It’s therefore unacceptable that Namibia is in the situation it is. The private sector will be able to solve the issues, however the government and its stakeholders are not keeping up. Remember that all economic activities needs to empower Namibians, yet it’s once again foreign players getting traction in this space.

Questions need to be asked.

Transport

The future of transport is autonomous, electric and autonomous. Most countries are starting to ban internal combustion engined vehicles with most setting 2040 as the last year. This offers Namibia 21 years. If we look back at changes over the past 28 years then we have a problem.

Our economy is fossil fuelled and moving away from that will cause losses for some. Namibia does not even have an Co2 and roadworthy testing program for vehicles. Pollutants are not seen as an issue. Why have nothing been done? Namibia like many other African countries will become the dumping ground of every type of used vehicle, which will continue the fossil cycle for many years to come, with no focus on actual pollutants.

Electric vehicle solutions are up and running across the globe with proven lower cost of ownership when compared to fossil vehicles. Zero emissions, generally safer vehicles and just as practical with equal range and features.

Automobiles, Light, medium and Heavy Trucks, Trains, Shipping, Planes and other industry specific vehicles.

There is a zero probability that this disruptive change will not happen. Namibia is in an enviable position as it is a small country when looking at its vehicle, truck and train fleets. The change needed can be done in a short time frame, giving Namibia the enviable position as a world leader in this field. Now factor in the new skills, infrastructure and cost benefits and the decision is a no brainer and policy makers should push to establish the right environment to enable this transition.

Education

Empowerment comes from education. When we compare educated women in Africa vs uneducated you find a measurable difference on how they live their lives. The same is true for all humans. Knowledge offers options and the freedom of choice. It’s reflexive in its application.

Taking into account the sectors involved in the Circular Bio based economy it becomes clear of the lack of skills Namibia had to offer at scale. However these sectors offers enough scope to address all joblessness in Namibia.

Funding

The current financial system in Namibia does not cater for Namibian entrepreneurs. The people that have made it in Namibia are too few and their wealth is not on par with other first world countries. Therefore Angel investing, private equity and business incubators are not available too many.

The Commercial banks work only on assets. The Development Bank of Namibia is also a commercial bank. When you are an entrepreneur you have a money making idea, without assets.

Venture Capital firms are not well promoted and all of this creates an unclear path for future business players.  Sustainable Funding for small to large businesses is the enabler for the Namibian economy.

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