Namibians embrace alternate ways to navigate economic headwinds amid inflation

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A shopper selects goods in a supermarket in Windhoek, Namibia, March 15, 2022. Namibia's annual inflation rate in February 2022 continued on an upward trend, increasing by 4.5 per cent compared to 2.7 per cent recorded in February 2021, the country's statistics agency (NSA) said Tuesday. (Photo by Musa C Kaseke/Xinhua)
A shopper selects goods in a supermarket in Windhoek, Namibia, March 15, 2022. Namibia's annual inflation rate in February 2022 continued on an upward trend, increasing by 4.5 per cent compared to 2.7 per cent recorded in February 2021, the country's statistics agency (NSA) said Tuesday. (Photo by Musa C Kaseke/Xinhua)

Every weekend since March this year, Frieda Ndapewa, a marketing professional from Windhoek, the Namibian capital, resorts to selling second-hand items at an informal market.

“I sell such items to generate funds to supplement my income and make ends meet. Prices have increased drastically and one cannot do as much with a salary anymore,” Ndapewa said in an interview Wednesday.

She is one of the many Namibians embracing other ways to navigate economic headwinds amid a rapid increase in commodity prices. Ndapewa said that the income generated had enabled her to cover the budget deficit due to soaring commodity prices, particularly transportation and food.

Records by the Namibia Statistics Agency (NSA) show that the annual inflation rate for January 2022 increased by 4.6 percent compared to 2.7 percent recorded in January 2021, the highest annual inflation rate since February 2019.

“The annual inflation rate for February 2022 stood at 4.5 percent, up from 2.7 percent recorded in February 2021, an increase of 1.7 percentage points,” said Alex Shimuafeni, the chief executive officer of Namibia Statistics Agency.

The top two main contributors to the annual inflation rate for February 2022 were transport, food and non-alcoholic beverages, according to the Namibia Consumer Price Index by NSA.

Ndapewa is not the only one. More locals feel the pinch of inflation.

“Yes, starting with the famous one, fuel price. A pack of 30 eggs from the local sellers went up. Not only imported products are the ones affected, local products too. A full tank will now cost me 880 Namibian dollars (about 60.51 U.S. dollars), but just a month ago, 700 Namibian dollars was enough,” said Elly Amupolo, an accountant based in a local town of Otjiwarongo.

Like many locals, she had to cut costs and re-think spending patterns. Equipped with a pen and paper, Amupolo reviewed her budget.

“My budget is already tight because I did a review two years back to remove things I do not need. As of now, there is nothing I can remove to accommodate inflation since car and mortgage bond installments have increased. The least I can do is cut on my saving,” Amupolo said.

In terms of social and traditionally-ascribed commitments, increasing prices also shrink Amupolo’s ability to care for her family.

“This somewhat affects my sense of responsibility and in the long run cause strain in the social fabric,” she added.

Those in business are not spared either. Nico Sitemo, a realtor based in Windhoek, the national capital, said a decline in purchasing power and increased interest rates resulted in clients qualifying for less to afford properties.

“The effects are worrisome, and there is no way to escape them. The demand margins are not being met. Sales are at a slow pace. Most properties valuation also dropped, and sellers are likely to make a loss. The supply and demand curve is on a negative,” Sitemo said.

Meanwhile, partnerships are an emerging central coping mechanism for those in business.

“We have more room to negotiate fees and commissions; we also capitalize on every opportunity presented to us. Collaborations are also key in a win-win situation, which impacts strained households,” he added.

Experts observe that households in Namibia are generally indebted, and rising food and gas prices because of inflation would leave lower-income households vulnerable.

Robert McGregor, head of research at Cirrus Capital, said that public revenue over the last years has flat-lined, which is concerning for many people.
In the interim, many are hoping for the economy to stabilize. Enditem

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