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Oranjemund to curb dependency on diamonds

Posted: 7 Jul 2019

ORANJEMUND has plans to diversify its economy and move away from its dependency on diamond mining.

This will be done through the Oranjemund 2030 (OMD 2030) agenda where the private and public sector together with the community aim to drive a few initiatives. The diversification plan was presented by the newly created Omdis director, Retha van der Schyf, at the Westair commercial flight inauguration last week. Omdis is a private agency which was hired by the town as an economic development accelerator.

The town has been dependent on the diamond mining industry over the years; however it aims to move towards developing other sectors as the inland diamond industry move to marine diamond mining. The town will focus on tourism, agriculture, agro-processing and renewable energy. The agenda (OMD 2030) was launched in 2016 and has been active since 2018 after the town’s transformation plan was enacted in 2014.

The town chose the year 2030 as it aligns with the life of the mine as well as the timeline to transform the town, which will take approximately 10 to 15 years. She explained that the plan is needed to be in place to transform the town and will have three phases. Van der Schyf continued that the transformation programme will focus on turning employees of the mining town into ordinary citizens irrespective of their affiliation with the mine.

She said the first three years will be focused on transferring municipal services, residential and commercial property. “That is where you take your municipal services, your property that was predominantly in the hands of the mine and you hand it over in a functioning and sustainable way to a local authority,” she explained. The second aspect is the socio-economic activity, which looks at providing long-term water strategy for the town, as well as educational and healthcare facilities.

Van der Schyf said although a highly efficient hospital was well established in the town, it will be costly to run as the mine was footing the bill. “Can you privatise it and keep it profitable and/ or do you make it a government hospital? How do you structure that healthcare?” she asked. The third and last aspect looks at how the town will deliberately create economic activities to ensure that the livelihood of the town is not affected adversely in the event that the mine shuts down or significantly decreases in size.

She emphasised that the process is not an easy one, and that in such a process, a local authority must be viable. “People need to pay for the services so that the council can pay for what they provide, and that has never happened here,” she said. She went on to say that getting approval from ministries and finding investors are also some foreseen challenges along the way.

In terms of renewable energy, Van der Schyf added that although it is a great initiative and might bring income, it does not create the needed job opportunities, in comparison to industries such as manufacturing. Speaking at the same event, OMD 2030 operational manager Sue Cooper said that it is important to encourage the citizens to participate in the process of transformation and community-building. She added that different projects are rolled out around the town to give the community an active role in the transformation of their town.

“Every project that we take on board has to fit the criteria: We want to be a voice for the community, we want to develop the sense of community within the town, we want to support Omdis and the Oranjemund Town Council,” she said. Envisaged projects stem from hospitality, tourism and the cultural sector, where the town is looking to establish a tourism information centre and e-bikes. Other projects include training and education activities, communication, community engagement as well as recycling projects.

[source: by Yokany Oliveira, the Namibian]