LÜDERITZ, Namibia, 13 November 2002
-- At independence only a dozen years ago, this fishing port
carved out of the stark desert coast was a ghost town. Today,
it is a thriving centre of 25 000 people with enough job
opportunities that Namibians flock to its processing plants and
The creation of the
Namibian fisheries sector is a success story par
excellence. Today, it is considered a model of
rigorous management of one of the world's richest fishing
grounds, which is still recovering from severe overfishing in
the 1970s and 1980s. But it is also a story of government
determination to make sure the bounty would be shared among as
many citizens as possible, from illiterate villagers to middle
managers to a new cadre of fisheries inspectors and patrol
officers to businessmen and civil servants.
14 000 new jobs
The proof -- 14 000 new jobs and US$354 million
contributed to export earnings in 2000 -- means a lot to a small
African country of 1.7 million people. It also means a lot to
the families of the Namibian employees, whose remittances
support whole villages in the populous north of the country.
FAO has worked with Namibia every step of
the way by providing a special advisor to the Minister for
Fisheries and Marine Resources, who heads a ministry that
didn't even exist before independence in 1990. The advisor
guides the government in myriad ways: structuring the ministry,
right down to writing job descriptions for senior posts;
implementing the fisheries master plan; drafting legislation;
and monitoring whether Namibia is fulfilling international
fishing treaty obligations.
was chosen because of its credibility, breadth of expertise and
neutrality," says the Minister, Dr Abraham Iyambo.
"We could have gone to a big fishing nation [for an
advisor], but nations can change government. They are less
reliable. The United Nations is always going to be
industry from scratch
independence, with support from Norway, the government produced
a White Paper, a master plan for the fisheries sector that
covered the development of a national fishing and processing
industry. It addressed such detailed issues as sustainable stock
management; job and business-ownership preference for Namibians,
especially indigenous Namibians; modern monitoring and
surveillance; research capacity; and a global profile for
Namibia as a leading fishing nation.
"We are 10 years down the track now, and I
can say that what was foreseen in the White Paper -- our bible
-- is what has come about," says Paul Nichols, the
current advisor, whose salary is paid by the Norwegian aid
agency NORAD. "FAO's great success was to make
sure it was followed."
advisor to the minister throughout the 1990s, praises the
government's devotion to long-term planning. "If
anybody had a reason for seeking short-term gains from their
fish stocks at independence, it was Namibia," he says.
"It had emerged from a long period of war. Its
industries were very undeveloped. Unemployment was over 40
percent and cruel inequities existed in the society. Yet, they
chose the long hard road of rebuilding stocks."
Dr Iyambo, who has a PhD in marine science
from University of Surrey in the United Kingdom, says the
government rigorously followed the White Paper because
"it is important for investors. Is their money safe?
You don't want to tell people this is policy today, and
tomorrow you tell them it has changed."
He used fiscal incentives to increase Namibian
participation in the fisheries sector. "The more
foreigners you employ, the more fees you pay." While
Namibians traditionally are not seagoing people, about 7 500 now
work on fishing boats -- 65 percent of all crew members -- while
in excess of 5 000 Namibians are employed on shore in processing
Strong support for
regulation -- from business
deregulation has been the fashion in many sectors worldwide --
for example, transportation and energy -- over the past two
decades, fishing companies in Namibia have been strong
supporters of a tightly regulated industry, and they are willing
to pay for it.
"We appreciate that
they have a secure policing system," said Appie Louw,
managing director of Marco Fishing (Pty) Ltd., a Lüderitz-based
fishing company with nine vessels and 400 employees.
"In some countries fishing is not properly policed. If
a guy has a 100-tonne quota, he brings in 300 tonnes. Here
you'll be caught out."
"Ninety percent of the time the boats go out
with inspectors. We have to pay their salaries, which we
don't like -- but it keeps everyone honest. If someone is
dishonest, you can't compete with him."
The largest fishing company in Namibia is NovaNam
Ltd., with 51 percent of voting equity owned by Namibian
financial institutions, Namibian private investors and company
staff and with operations in Lüderitz and Walvis Bay, the
country's only other fishing port. A member of the
Pescanova Group, the leading branded fish and seafood products
company in Spain, NovaNam's huge Lüderitz waterfront plant
employs 1 950 staff and is capable of processing more than 100
tonnes of fish a day, serviced by 19 fishing vessels.
"There are other rich fishing
grounds in the world, but the resource management is here in
Namibia," notes Miguel Angel Tordesillas,
NovaNam's Group Senior General Manager. "The
government introduced a scientific and political framework that
was a pragmatic, sensible model. We were the first new
investment to come back. Our confidence has been vindicated 150
percent -- we're continuing to invest and