While the volatility of the global economic recession continues to squeeze Namibian companies resulting in more retrenchments and cost-cutting measures, local small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are feeling the pinch even more.

The SME sector which is currently at the highest risk of the downturn is experiencing frustration in trying to maintain equal cost and income or to simply remain in business as the economy is reportedly now growing risk from weather shocks and other climate-related phenomena.

The deputy Minister of Industrialisation, Trade and SME Development Lucia Iipumbu, recently indicated that SMEs could be the saving grace for pulling the local economy out of the prolonged recession.

Meanwhile, the Economic Association of Namibia has announced that it will host a panel discussion on how Namibia can recover from the economic downturn, featuring country senior partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers, Nangula Uaandja as a panelist during early September.

However, young entrepreneur Ernest Hamufungu said businesses can navigate through the ongoing recession by returning to the basics and focusing on a customer-oriented approach which places customer satisfaction at the core.

Hamufungu is the owner of Vaefeni Distribution in the fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) or consumer packaged goods (CPG) sector and supplies products such as dates and grapes to retailers.

“The way I am navigating these hard-economic times is by focusing on getting the basics right. This economy actually demands for real businesspeople to strive. Your customer service must be on point. People are not going to spend a dime just for the sake of it,” explained Hamufungu.  

“You need to have that something special. For us, it is our customer focus. Our business is built on customer value management and that has really helped us in these hard times. We are not reinventing the wheel,” he added.

Hamufungu noted that many SMEs are not “hungry enough” and no matter how much money a business makes, there is always need to remain hungry for more. He further indicated that agribusiness and food security is something that is globally an area of focus as world populations continue to grow.

Local entrepreneur Ernest Hamufungu with a client

“It is an open secret that economies around the globe are not performing well but basic needs will always be met. No matter how bad an economy is, people must eat. So, for those of us in this industry we can still weather these economic storms.”

Hamufungu started Vaefeni Distributors after being retrenched from his job at a leading meat manufacturing company in Windhoek close to four years ago. He has experience in FMCG and sales from his previous job which affords him the opportunity to best navigate the economic storms as a business owner.  

“At first, it was quite a challenge as most retailers are South African-owned and it was a tradition for them to mostly stock South African products. Things are slowly but surely starting to change. I am of the opinion that what can be sourced locally, should be sourced locally so that we can boost local production and create more employment.”

He said, as he continues on the path of customer value management to remain in business, some of his products like Namibian grapes and dates are now available at Spar. “Every single step to the next level is an achievement as long as one is not stagnant and your vision is clear.”

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