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Namibia to Ready Black-Ownership Law by Year-End, President Says

  • Business, industry in southern African nation oppose plan
  • Law to compel whites to sell 25% stake in businesses to blacks

Namibia will table laws to better distribute wealth among its citizens, most of whom are black, by the end of the year, despite resistance from businesses.

The government of the southwest African nation that’s among the world’s most economically unequal is in the final leg of consultations on the National Equitable Economic Empowerment Framework that will make it mandatory for white-owned businesses to sell a 25 percent stake to blacks, President Hage Geingob told reporters Tuesday in the capital, Windhoek.

“We have to address the underlying structural impediments which make it difficult, if not impossible, for Namibians to effectively participate in the economy,” Geingob said.

The bill outlines six areas to increase black citizens’ participation in business, including developing people’s skills and providing financing for those disadvantaged by inequality to buy stakes in companies. While only about 6 percent of Namibia’s 2.5 million citizens are white, they own most enterprises. That’s a legacy of white-minority rule South Africa imposed when it controlled Namibia from World War I to 1990, with black people being disenfranchised and displaced.

The Namibia Chamber of Commerce and Industry wants the focus on economic ownership scrapped, saying it will result in capital flight.

South Africa has a similar policy; critics say it has failed to redress inequalities because it focuses on increasing black ownership of companies rather than raising education standards to match a skills shortage.

Namibia will draw comparative experiences from South Africa, but its legislation will be unique, Geingob said.

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