Consumer activity in Namibia.

Position:Gross domestic product growth

For a country that only gained its independence in 1988 in a region known for political volatility and enormous human development problems, Namibia is almost a curiosity. In a sense, its per capita income shouldn't be as high as it is. Market: Africa Mid-East does not track Namibia's statistics on page 5 because the country is small both in land area and population. If we did per capita income at us$6,834 would list above Lebanon and below Algeria.

The impact Namibia does have is as a model for other sub-Saharan countries.

The economy is relatively stable. The decade average annual increase in GDP is 3.5 percent-using International Monetary Fund (IMF) statistics-clearly under the rule-of-thumb measure of 6 percent to actually make a change in people's lives. But it it is consistent, and the IMF predicts 2006 growth at 3.8 percent.

Namibia does, in fact, have staggering problems: Infrastructure is marginal, HIV/AIDS is out-of-control, reforms are slow in developing, and income disparities and land ownership nearly at a social flash point.

Some indications of progress, in spite of all of this, have emerged.

On January 27, 2006, the Namibia Economist (Windhoek) reported new retail tenants at the 430,000 square foot Maerua Mall, actually calling it "one of the biggest and most exciting shopping malls in Windhoek." The "boosterism" evident in the language itself is worthy of any chamber of commerce newsletter in a developed economy.

On January 24, 2006, the government owned newspaper New Era (Windhoek) ran a story about the success of a savings account program for low-income consumers called EasySave. The program is directed at the "unbanked" consumer who was previously required to show a pay stub before being allowed to open a savings account.

Other press reports say that major rail and road infrastructure projects are underway. These are critcal factors in enhancing consumer market development in Nambia, particularly in the food sector, since farmers will gain greater access to population centers. Consumers will benefit with a larger choice of food items at lower prices.

GDP GROWTH...

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