One on one with Ondangwa CEO

29 April 2016 | Business

This month Kenya Kambowe (KK) interviewed the chief executive officer of Ondangwa, Ismael Namgongo (IN) on the Ondangwa Trade and Industrial Exhibition, which is starting today and ending on 7 May, and also on the town’s successes and challenges.

KK - What are the benefits of hosting the expo?
IN - For the past five years the council has been hosting the Ondangwa Trade and Industrial Exhibition with notable success and the event has been growing from year to year.
As a council, we are a third-tier government with the responsibility of creating a business environment where businesses can thrive. It is therefore right to say that the achievement and successes of hosting the OTIE should not only be measured in terms of the gate takings during the event but it’s more than that. Its success should be measured in terms of how this event is rejuvenating the local economy of Ondangwa and the region.
During this period we expect the population of Ondangwa to increase because of the many exhibitors that we are expecting and also the number of visitors to our town will grow tremendously. These people will be using our services that we have in town, from the petrol stations, taxi services, hotels and lodges, restaurants, shops and to the vendors selling kapana, they will all benefit from this expected influx of people to this event.
Ondangwa is a very important place in the economy of this country and specifically the northern parts of the country. It is the town that has the most important economic infrastructure in the North, which includes the airport, the biggest railway station and of course the B1 road that connects the country to the popular Angolan market as it passes through this town. As a council, it’s our duty to promote this place to the rest of the country and position ourselves as an ideal logistics and industrial hub of the North, and hosting of this kind of event is just one of our efforts in promoting our town. We strongly believe that the major success and benefits of hosting this event are being felt more at business individual levels. Business turnovers during this period are increased and as a council we are happy.
We should not forget the after-effect of the expo, which will by itself actually provide economic benefits in terms of additional investment that would be attracted due to the exposure the town receives by hosting this kind of events.
We expect to see more investment not only from visitors to the expo, but also from third parties due to the promotion of brand ‘ONDANGWA’ which the Expo will undoubtedly do.

KK - What will make this year’s expo different from those held in the past?
IN - This year’s expo will be bigger and better than before because of the efforts that the council has put in. The council has focused on quality as opposed to quantity. We have decided to specifically target those exhibitors that can add an impact and an immediate value to this event.
We want to grow this event to become an event that gives value for our visitors and exhibitors, hence the huge investment the council has made in infrastructure development. This year the event will be hosted in all new exhibition halls and permanent structures, unlike the past events.

KK - Apart from the Expo what makes Ondangwa a place one would want to visit after the Expo has ended?
IN - Ondangwa is a very vibrant town with all the amenities that makes once to think about returning if you are a first-time visitor. The place has a very strong culture where you meet different people with different cultural backgrounds. It’s a place where we are embracing the ‘One Namibia, One Nation’ notion.

KK - It’s often reported that Ondangwa is a growing town. At what pace is the town growing?
IN - Ondangwa is indeed growing. We are seeing significant growth in terms of private investment. Since independence, the town’s growth has been driven by mainly government investment in government offices and facilities. At the moment, the town is seeing a significant increase in private businesses investment, mainly in logistics and industrial facilities. There are major oil depots, accommodation facilities, retail and manufacturing plants setting up shop in Ondangwa.
The rise in private investment can be attributed to the fact that Ondangwa is centrally located in the North and it’s just a stone’s throw from the populous Angolan market. With the ideal economic infrastructure such as the airport, the railway and our location, Ondangwa is and will remain a magnet to private investment and we are witnessing this kind of growth at the moment.

KK - What are some of the challenges the town has encountered over the years and how were they overcome?
IN - The main challenge that we have as a council is the limited financial capacity to respond positively to the growth of this beautiful town. There is a lot of interest in this town for people to either set up business or housing but with the limited financial capacity, the council cannot satisfy that demand at the pace that is required.
This has forced the council to enter into agreements with private developers to service land, a process that has its advantages and disadvantages. With private developers, land sales become expensive to the citizens and that’s where the government has been coming in helping the council through budget subsidisation.
Although the government is subsidising the council, funding remains a challenge because the government also has limited funds and with the little funds that the council generates, we are only able to do a little in land delivery and hence the land backlog in the town.

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