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Business discrimination remains prevalent in northern Namibia – Opinion

Despite Namibia having a consumer protection bill, citizens in the northern regions continue to face significant discrimination in the business sector.

This issue has deep historical roots dating back to colonial times, when economic policies and practices were designed to favor certain regions and populations over others.

Unfortunately, these inequalities have carried over into the modern era and are manifested in discriminatory practices in the business sector.

PRODUCTS AND SERVICES

Several areas highlight the current discrimination faced by northerners:

  1. 1. Car Insurance Rates: Residents often find higher car insurance premiums compared to their southern counterparts.

For example, a study conducted by the Namibia Financial Institutions Supervisory Authority (Namfisa) in 2022 revealed that motor insurance premiums are, on average, 15 to 20% higher in northern Namibia than in other parts of the country.

  1. 2. Quality of clothing: The availability of high-quality clothing is noticeably lower in northern cities.

A 2023 survey by the Namibia Consumer Protection Organization found that 65% of consumers reported dissatisfaction with the quality and variety of clothing available, compared to only 30% in southern regions.

  1. 3. Access to corporate services: Essential corporate services, such as banking and telecommunications, are often of lower quality or less accessible.

A 2022 report by the Namibia Statistics Agency (NSA) said 40% of the population in northern regions had limited access to banking services, compared to just 15% in the south.

Additionally, a 2023 report by the Communications Regulatory Authority of Namibia (Cran) indicated that northern regions experience 25% more network outages and slower internet speeds than southern regions.

THE ROLE OF STORE OWNERS

A major factor in perpetuating these discriminatory practices is the role of store owners.

Many business owners in the commercial arena perpetuate these inequalities by implementing disadvantageous pricing strategies.

A 2023 study by the Namibian Chamber of Commerce and Industry found that prices of essential goods in northern stores are, on average, 10% higher than in similar stores in the south.

Furthermore, northern stores deliberately stock fewer or lower quality products; A 2022 market analysis showed that 70% of stores in the north sold fewer high-end electronics compared to stores in the capital, Windhoek. They also provided poor customer service: a 2023 consumer survey indicated that 55% of northerners rated customer service in their area as poor, compared to 25% in southern regions.

The impact of these discriminatory practices is profound.

It not only limits economic opportunities for people and businesses in the north, but also perpetuates a cycle of poverty and underdevelopment.

The poverty rate in the northern regions is 45%, compared to 25% in the southern regions, according to the NSA (2023).

SUPERVISION NEEDED

Continued economic marginalization contributes to a sense of disenfranchisement among northern residents.

Addressing these disparities requires a multifaceted approach.

Firstly, the consumer protection bill needs to be rigorously implemented to ensure that all citizens, regardless of their region, enjoy equal access to quality services and products.

Government agencies should increase oversight of business practices to prevent discriminatory pricing and ensure equitable distribution of goods and services. Public awareness campaigns can empower northerners to demand fair treatment and better services.

Additionally, supporting local entrepreneurs in the north can help create a more balanced and inclusive business landscape, especially given that only 20% of Namibia’s small and medium-sized businesses are based in the northern regions, it was reported. the Namibia Investment Center in 2023.

WE MUST PUSH FOR QUALITY FOR EVERYONE

It is essential to strengthen enforcement of consumer protection laws and improve regulatory oversight to ensure fair prices and quality standards.

Public awareness campaigns should be launched to inform consumers about their rights.

Supporting local entrepreneurship through financial incentives, training and resources can boost the local economy.

Improving access to financial services and investing in infrastructure will create a more conducive environment for business operations.

Providing subsidies and grants, facilitating better supply chains, and establishing regional development funds will help level the playing field.

Finally, fostering collaboration between the government and the private sector will enable comprehensive strategies for equitable economic development.

While the Consumer Protection Bill is a step in the right direction, its effective implementation is crucial to eliminating entrenched discrimination in the business sector.

It is imperative that both government and private sector stakeholders work together to ensure that all Namibians, regardless of their geographical location, can enjoy equal opportunities and access to quality services and products.

– Gideon Kapuka is a researcher, writer and business consultant; [email protected]

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