By Ndalimpinga Iita
Early this year, Maria Siegfried’s venture of trading with items ordered online from China was at its peak.
“I had established a loyal clientele to whom I sold items. I had also built good business contacts with suppliers in China. Things were going well,” said Siegfried, a young Namibian informal trader.
She is one of the micro-level transnational traders importing items from China for resale at a premium. Items are ordered online via platforms such as Alibaba and Ali Express. Then products are shipped to Namibia.
However, business dwindled after the COVID-19 outbreak and subsequent stringent government measures to curtail the spread of the virus.
“Since the coronavirus outbreak, we encountered difficulties with the ordering of items from China,” said Siegfried, who has been trading imported items from China for nearly five years.
According to her, the non-activity and operation brought business to a halt, incurring significant losses.
“Luckily, I had some items in stock that I advertised vial social media, and eventually sold out,” she said on Thursday.
She also had to reimburse some clients’ money. To this, Siegfried explained, usually ordering and procurement of goods was carried out based on an order from their customers. To make this simpler, traders typically need a deposit of 50 percent from customers for each order put. The deposit covers goods procurement and also serves as security.
However, with the ordering and shipment operations at a standstill, she could not deliver products to clients on time. As a result, some customers who paid a 50 percent deposit demanded their money back.
“Meanwhile, I had to put some orders on hold and informed clients that they would be updated when things improve. It was all about making customers understand the situation,” she added.
Mally Likukela, a local economist and academic, said that COVID-19 has adversely affected Namibia’s import of goods from China. Several Namibian small-medium enterprises and individual traders have been relying on China as a supplier for cheap goods, affecting their trade, according to Likukela.
She is not the only one. Ottilia Festus, a young Namibian who sold accessories, clothes and fashion items imported from China, joined the trade upon returning (to Namibia) from studies in China.
According to Festus, the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted her business. She has endured many losses- not only income but also a client base. The Namibian borders remain closed, and most international flights still grounded.
“While we can order items online, the shipping companies and airline operations are restricted due to stringent safety and security measures. I had to pause transacting as we are not able to receive our goods promptly by air or at the port,” Festus said.
Namibia Ports Authority (NAMPORT)’s operations were affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and state of emergency.
Kavin Harry, an official at NAMPORT, said its operational capacity in terms of cargo operations had been reduced by some 50 percent.
According to Harry, although shipping lines are still coming in, business is hampered by the rate at which service is being handled because they are only operating on one shift.
In the interim, the traders are optimistic about business prosperity once stringent measures are lifted.
These include cushioning the impact of COVID-19 and reviving business models.
Siegfried is repositioning her entrepreneurial venture.
“I am avidly following the news, especially on China and new developments, given that is my primary source of products,” she said.
For Festus, she makes sure that she keeps in touch with clients during this period to maintain clientele relation. She also plans to boost her social media marketing strategy. Enditem