Nangula Uaandja is a chartered accountant by profession and is currently the CEO of the newly established Namibia Investment Promotion and Development Board. The Board, a public entity in the Presidency in Namibia, is tasked with the mandate of promoting and facilitating foreign and domestic investments as well as the development of SMEs. Until December 2020, Nangula served as Partner at PwC Namibia with more than 20 years experience in auditing, and she has also been involved in non-audit work such as consulting, fraud investigation, budgetary processes, etc. Nangula was named Namibia’s Businesswoman of the year in 2011.
Growth Lab research manager Nikita Taniparti moderated a discussion with Nangula on May 11, 2022 at Harvard Kennedy School.
DISCLAIMER: This webinar transcript was loosely edited and there may be inaccuracies.
Nikita Taniparti: Welcome to everyone for joining us today. We have a truly global audience with us and I'm very excited if this is your first time joining us for a development talk. Welcome to everyone else. Welcome back. My name is Nikita and I'm a research manager at the Growth Lab at the Harvard Kennedy School. But most importantly, I've had the privilege and honor of working with the Government of Namibia since 2020, with the Growth Lab, and in particular, it's been a pleasure to work with Nangula Uaandja and her team. The title of our talk today is A Journey of Impact in Namibia, and you'll hear questions from me about Nangula's professional and personal journey, as well as the broader impact that the Namibian Investment Promotion and Development Board is having in the country. I just want to start a conversation by kind of going back to the beginning. So you were born in Namibia before it was independent and as a teenager in the eighties, you studied in Sierra Leone when you were in exile. How did that influence your worldview at that age and in particular your understanding of your home country of Namibia?
Nangula Uaandja: Thank you very much, Nikita. It's great to be on this Development Talk. And yes, it was a times of excitement, but also times of challenging in the media at the time. You have mentioned, for example, that the first Namibian female, black female to qualify as a chartered accountant. I think maybe just to give context as to what was happening in Namibia at the time, I'm not the first because other women or other black people did not want to become chartered accountants. I'm the first black female and one of the first few black Namibians to get that qualification because pre-independence black people were not allowed into that profession. So the racial segregation that was practiced in South Africa, in Namibia then meant that black Namibians, there was certain qualifications and certain careers that were limited to them and therefore that is one of them. And those we went through education system that was not the most opportune for the time and that was one of the reason why I felt like I needed to join Swappable at the Image School and get the opportunity to study for the years. Of course, when you join as a teenager, you may end up studying for that, but if you are a bit older you may end up of course having to fight for Namibia's struggle. So I was lucky as and I was within the age group that still needed to study further and I ended up in Australia. My world view has been impacted to number one by bringing in Namibia by my parents, by what I faced in Namibia, the injustice at the time, but also by what I experienced in Sierra Leone, the loving of a nation and a people that are appreciating and welcoming people who are not of their own. But they took us into their homes. The United Nations at the time is the one who funded our studies and they found homes and families for us. So, yes, while there was injustice, on one hand there was welcoming. And and whether it is the UN, it was made up of many organizations, many people, many countries, many cultures that supported the cause for Namibia and also the country where we went. It was families that looked after. So looking at that, therefore my focus is not about injustice or whatever. It's about the angle and where everything misses. That is why there might be challenges in the world. On one hand, they are also good people and solutions that people and humans are finding for each other and for themselves.
Nikita Taniparti: I think that's especially important not just to focus on the injustices that might have been an obstacle, but on the perseverance and the places that did serve as motivating factors to keep going. And so Namibia is even today still a young country got independence in 1990 and it has a strong presence of the public sector. And your personal extensive experience in the private sector, how do you merge and blend the best of both worlds today?
Nangula Uaandja: Yes. I think as you have indicated earlier, that is really where I ended up here probably is because I've been in the private sector. But being in the private sector, I think, yes, these are things that they say in the right place at the right time and taking a course of action, probably not because you thought about it, but because that is the way you are led. So my background is when I was at high school, I never knew accounting. So what I've studied is science. So I did physics, chemistry, additional mathematics, mathematics. And I thought, I will become somebody in the lab, in the laboratory or a scientist. And it's for two reasons that I thought I would become a scientist. Number one is I was definitely good at science and I enjoyed it. Number two, I was not very good with people and I wanted to stay away from them. So because of those two reasons, I decided I will definitely become a scientist and be in the laboratory and mind my own business. But then there was a time for family and reason. My father was a business person, a small owner of a small businessperson, and yes, he used to pay taxes. And I thought, okay. Me being the figure person, I think the responsibility is on me to study whatever course it is that I need to do to help my father with his business. And I thought that was economics. It's the only subject I've heard about. So when I applied to university, I applied for economics. And then when I was at university, I kind of find out. Now it's only economics I need is accounting. So then I got accounting. I said, okay, chartered accountants. Okay, it's not bad chartered. It's like a charter plane. So you charter person. So I don't need to work with people. I think I can still do my figures and everything else in the laboratory or in whatever I need to be to work on my figure. So it's probably still going to be me and the figures, definitely not people. So that is where I started. But when I started working I was thought, no, that's unfortunately, that's not the way it works because we are sending you to clients and you need to be nice to clients and you actually need to work with people. So that was one of the challenges I faced earlier and therefore I kind of developed myself as in as I went on in that process of development and personal growth, I realized, okay, there's a lot of cost to develop as a person. And then I consulted then. So being in that role, I ended up having clients from all walks of life international development agencies, government clients, and then private sector. And then I actually found out in Namibia that, yes, these everybody was playing a role and everybody want to do the right thing. But because of a bit of the past and some of the challenges that we have, we are not collaborating as much as we should. And I believe that I need somebody to help me get a formula on if we collaborate between the public, private sector and development partners, I think we can grow this economy. So then what happened in 2011 when I became a businesswoman of the Year, I was asked which kind of social responsibility project I wanted to do. I was already doing a lot in that angle, so I decided to do something. But I started working on how what do we need to do to grow and increase the trust between the public and the private sector and development partners so that they can work together to grow this economy? Because the challenges we are facing can be solved together when they realize that they actually all want the same thing and we need to work together. So that journey started in 2011 and then yes, because of that, I registered a few years later for my master's degree. I'm currently busy doing my doctorate in business leadership so that I can just find a formula on how can we as a country of Namibia, bring better collaboration between the public and the private sector? And of course, with the support of our development partners, to make sure that we can utilize our resources better. Now, the private the public sector is the custodian and the stewardship owns the stewardship of Namibian resources. But many times we do know that the private sector has got complementary assets that can bring much of value to those assets. So where we are is how can we bring the strength of but the profit motive of the private sector and the social motive of the public sector? How can we bring it to the table and collaborate better for the for the benefit of our people? And that is really where the journey started. And that is what drove me to where am today. And I'm excited because I can see that we definitely have a public sector that has got a political will in everything that is necessary to do what needs to be done. And we've got a private sector that has the same feeling.
Nikita Taniparti: No, I think that's very helpful. As you said, there's a right time and the right place sometimes for this nexus of collaboration to happen. So for people who may be listening from other countries who are struggling with some of those same challenges of how do you bring those complementarities together? What have you learned about some of the obstacles you faced in trying to foster this collaboration and what's worked well? What are the successes as you started to do this?
Nangula Uaandja: Something that we discussed is diversity is important and therefore bringing together diverse teams. And when you talk about diverse team, it's not just in terms of ethnicity, it's not just in terms of gender, but it's also of background. What I see with my team today, we have got a team of blend, people with public sector experience and people with private sector experience. And I had this discussion with a colleague some time ago, which is the almost that cross we call it cross-pollination, cross-pollination of experience of private sector and experience of public sector. So where we are, for example, I do not have sufficient experience in public sector, but I need to make sure that I understand. What does policy mean? What is the importance of setting policy? And therefore and therefore I need to work with our ministers, I need to work with our executive directors in various ministries so that I can gain that from the experience. At the same time, I've got private sector experience and I know how the private sector works, how the private sector things. And therefore, when we bring the two parties to the table, that communication of having both of us. So I think one of the reason why I took up this role, I said we need a few people that understand what is driving the motive of government and also the ones that understand where the private sector's coming from. And I actually said I'm probably one of the few in why I'm one of the few is because I'm a Namibian that was still born before independence. I went in exile. Yes, not for a long time, but I went in exile. So I understand the government and the people that went in exile. What were we fighting for, what we were fighting against and what we want to achieve from a social, national and other development perspective. So I have got that understanding, but I have worked in the private sector for more than 20 years. So, yes, I understand if you are a business person, what are you interested in? What are your objectives? What do you want to hear? What is on the table? So I think I have got at least, although I do not have sufficient public sector experience yet, I have got the heart of a public servant from where the background comes. And I will definitely be able to hear the side of the government and the side of the private sector and see how do we marry the two. And therefore, you need to bring people together that have got experience on both. And those people, what they've got experience on both. Those are the ones that will then almost like start the journey and start conversations and make sure that you bring together things that will bring solutions that consider the needs, the challenges and the objectives of both the public and the private sector.
Nikita Taniparti: Right. And Namibia is no stranger to facing a lot of challenges in the past and the present. So and today, how do we think about the link between attracting investment and solving Namibia's current challenges of inequality, unemployment, and poverty? How do you see that playing out from your very pivotal role in that?
Nangula Uaandja: Yes, so I think if I can touch a little bit on the work that we did together with you, I think the work that we did together with you, we identified, for example, Namibia. So if we look at Namibia, we said between around about 2008 and about 2014 or 15. Namibia grew quite well. Our growth averaged to 4%. There was a time that it went as high as 8% and so forth. However, we noted that during that period, yes, we created employment but not sustainable employment. And also we did not it was not inclusive growth. So what were the challenges? I think the challenges that was highlighted through your study is, number one, it was driven by commodities and therefore, at the moment, commodity prices went down. Then the opportunities were also lost. Number two, it was driven by government by government spending. And the moment government spending was reined in, then we did not have so much opportunities available. And then number three, it was non-tradable. Therefore, where we have to come as a nation now is if we are going to look at growth going forward, we need to look at inclusive growth. So our current president, when he was elected a few years ago, which is probably seven or eight years ago, that he came into office, he said, I, our first president brought us peace. Our second president brought us stability. And therefore, what he's aiming to do is to bring us prosperity, but it must be inclusive prosperity. And therefore, his mantra is, no one should be left. Out. And that is what actually what the first thing in Namibia for our covered you is leaving no one behind, no one left out. And therefore, when we evaluate investment and analyze investment that are coming before us is how will this investment help us address the challenges of Namibia? What is it? What are our national priorities? Our national priority is job creation. Our national priorities is yes, it is to reduce unemployment and to fight poverty. So if you are coming to us and you say you are an investor or we are attracting you as an investor, we need to know that is the something in for you as an investor. But what is it for Namibia and how inclusive will this project to be? So when we have that conversation then we have really, really good conversation because every investor will also want to make a difference to the extent or be seen to make a difference if they don't want. So every investor that I meet actually wants to make a difference or they want to be seen to make a difference. And therefore, when you have a conversation with them of saying, how will your project help us solve these tribal challenges? So and then one of the things that then our president did is when he gave us the mandate of investment promotion, he also gave us a mandate of MSME development. And therefore, that mandate is really saying the really the reason why His Excellency elevated the role of investment promotion in MSMEs the to his office and to that to the office of the President is because he believes that MSMEs have got the greatest potential to create jobs. While large projects are important and they provide opportunities, the more job creation will actually come through the multiplier effect. And if we, as Namibians are not ready to be plugged into the value and supply chain of those projects, then we will not benefit. And therefore the challenge then that last bit before us as an investment promotion board is how do we support MSM is to make sure that they have got the relevant information, to make sure that they have got the relevant mentoring, training and development that can help them or that can enable them to access opportunities that are offered by investors. So yes, one conversation is with investors saying, can you support our development objectives and our national priorities? But then the other one is, MSME, are you there? Do you have the capacity to deliver? And so forth.
Nikita Taniparti: Yeah. And speaking about delivery, how do you see the relationship when you get pressure from the public sector to deliver results of investment and you get pressure from investors to deliver results to make it a better place to invest. How are you trying to mediate and negotiate that?
Nangula Uaandja: Yes. I don't think we have won that battle or I've got the right answer, but I think we are making progress. And the progress that I say we are making is number one. There is great political will and therefore the support and the welcome with which we have received as newcomers to the public sector in US and new entities is actually overwhelming. So whether it is the support of His Excellency, with the support of Cabinet Ministers, whether it's the support of officials, we have received actually good support. And therefore what happens there is, yes, we make our lists and how we are engaging investors. It's actually we have been very, very practical. So we when you take a project and say, okay, yeah, investor, this is the project and this is what you need. We need to do for the project to succeed. What do we need to do? Number one, it's probably just services, licenses and so forth that are required from government that are easy and therefore we work with the various respective government entities to sort that one out. Number two, it could be a policy vacuum. And therefore what we are doing currently is then working and setting up a committee that has got private sector players and public sector players to identify the vacuum in the policy environment so that we can fill in the gaps that are there. So the good thing is that I said we have received the support from government of saying and that is one of our mandate that has been given by His Excellency is that we can make recommendations on improvements to policy. So we are now working and reporting back to Cabinet of saying these are the policy gaps and this what needs to be done. And we have seen actually good support in that area and then from the private sector, we then making sure that we are giving constant feedback and we have got the investment facilitation office that is keeping them updated. So it is not something that you do in a day or in a week. But the good thing is the willingness of both parties to keep the dialog open and the channels of communication open is helping us to make sure that we achieve our objectives.
Nikita Taniparti: Yeah, absolutely. I think that's very important because sometimes you need to zoom out to see what impact might mean to a certain entity. And depending on the time, it also can be zooming out a lot or zooming in. And I want it to zoom in to think about young and female entrepreneurs. How can a group like them contribute to creating a sustainable future for Namibia? So how do you balance an institutional way to create impact and promoting entrepreneurs to be uplifted and do that themselves?
Nangula Uaandja: Yes. So if you look at especially for young and female, our president is very much number one. He's very much committed to the diversity and he's very much committed to the young people. So I think he's one of the first presidents on the continent who appointed a youth advisor. So President Mitchell is a youth advisor on youth matters and in U.S.. So and that I think is a big message that we have. And then secondly is then what we do. It's any way you look at everything that he's talking about or cabinet discussions is about what how which we how many women do we have? What is the inclusion of them of of the young people? But then what we need to do is then, of course, how do we support the young people? So for example, what we are doing is as a board that we are with our programs, they are some programs that we have designed and said this program is definitely for female entrepreneurs and this program is for the youth. So we have got, for example, a next gen affair that is coming up sometime in September is the first time that we are going to do it is a next gen being that as it may also, yes, I know that there is a history of exclusion from for women and so forth, but I'm sometimes a mother of three boys, so I am concerned that sometimes we are leaving our boys, especially in Namibia. So Namibia is one of the countries in them, one of the countries in the top ten countries that are doing well with females. And actually we have got university ranking and so on. We have got quite good female representation in many, many areas. So we are doing well. So I'm actually afraid of our men in Namibia of saying if they don't start pulling up their socks, I think it will be a women country very soon. So I need to make sure that projects and everything that we need to do is diversified and with means. Diversified is make sure that we include women, but not at the exclusion of of of of male counterpart.
Nikita Taniparti: Definitely. And when you think about this spatially, when I visited Namibia, it's very obvious there are many parts of Namibia that you think you're in five different countries. So how do you think of integrating spatial? Discrepancies are bringing empowerment to different places in the country.
Nangula Uaandja: That is a is a very, very challenging one. And I think that one is really where we need to pull our heads together because the one thing is these many people with many objectives and you have to work with partners in one thing that one always does in life is one institution or one person is too small to make greatness. I think somebody like John Maxwell says one is too small a number to achieve greatness. So if you want to achieve greatness, then you need to start a movement. And a movement gets started by a small group of people and it's just by leading by example of making sure that you bring in diversity. So, yes, the country and the government is putting policies in place that are going to that are driving and supporting inclusivity in all sectors of our lives. And therefore, normally, whatever policy or whatever proposal, for example, we take to Cabinet, the question always comes. We have got a minister of gender and that minister always looks at it from that, from that angle. And also that ministry also deals with poverty and marginalized communities and they look at it from that angle. We are making sure that we are inclusive. And that is the question then normally that all of us, when we vote, we are engaging. So for example, one of the engagement at the board is many times we communicate on social media, but when we communicate on social media, we are being very, very exclusive because is many people that are in the remote areas of Namibia, they've got a phone and they actually have got a cell phone and they've got access to a 2 to 2 cell phone network, but not necessarily on Facebook. So normally we then react to what is coming through on Facebook, Twitter and so forth. But there's actually many people that we are not reaching. So what medium of communication are we using? And those are some of the questions that we are asking. Are we on radio? Because actually then radio is still one medium of communication in most areas in Namibia. And are we on television and BBC because many people still watch NBC. So we need to challenge ourselves in everything that we are doing from medium of communication and reaching out. And when we started with our team that is dealing with Msomi that the first thing that they did last year and they produced a report is go to all the regions of Namibia, all 14 of them, and make sure that before we do anything, understand what are the people saying with regard to the MSME mandate? What are the challenges? They put their report together and that report is helping inform our responses to the challenges that we are facing.
Nikita Taniparti: Yeah. And even though, as you say, one institution might not make the difference of a full movement in the institution of, for example, the Investment Promotion Board, how do you, as a leader go about crafting a workplace that fosters innovation, risk-taking, collaboration, and a reward for finding new ways? Or, we call it positive deviants for breaking the rules?
Nangula Uaandja: Is it always challenging that one? So when we put our core values together, we actually really spend a good time thinking about our way, our how and what. And we had a good weekend that we had, almost like with all our staff, with all our management, with the board at the beginning to discuss that. And we came up with our core values, which means which we call Namibia. So the acronym for our core values are Namibia. And we say that if you are an employee of the board, you must be like a true Namibian and a true Namibian and the kind of stands for no one left behind. And therefore, inclusivity, of course, is important, and then it stands for accountability. So we must be accountable in everything that we do. And M stands for making a difference. And I stands for integrity. We must be, of course, we are dealing with information and data from investors, their business plan and so forth, and that is important in Namibia. And then B stands for Brilliance. We must act with excellence in everything that we do. Another eye for innovation. And then lastly with agility. And what I tell my people is this one If if a problem lands on your desk and that probably goes with what if you have things in my life. So let me kind of come back to the message that I tell them. But let me say something. Yes, anomaly. In a few years or month ago, I was asked to go and talk somewhere on responsibilities or something like that. And then I started by looking on Google and the responsibilities of in Namibia and I could not find any sites. Okay, let me go to the Constitution and find that in the Constitution. What is the responsibility of an amphibian? I didn't find anything, so I actually found that the responsibility of an American. I think America is the probably the only country or one of the few countries where the citizens have got responsibilities. I think it's almost like a responsibility to take up to do. Go and fight or so on. I looked at a few, so I know that America has got some things. I use this example and I thought, I think now this is why we have challenges. We have challenges because we have got people with too many rights and fewer responsibilities. So what happens is I looked in our Constitution when I typed in write, I could not count with the right but responsibility. There was nothing. So then I think that is one thing. If you ask me, life is and somebody said, complete that sentence. Normally I completely say life is a responsibility and that is maybe how I was raised. That is my perception in life. Life is a responsibility we are here to achieve and we need to be accountable. And one day there will be questions as to what did you do with the time, with the hours, with the talent and everything that it interested in to you and I must be able to answer that question. So having said that, now what I tell our people is if a problem lands on your lap, then it is yours. It does not matter if it is not your department, if it is not, whatever. It is your problem. Until you find somebody who has dealt with it. So let's call it. You are in a department. We call it up talking and somebody calls you and they are asking about msomi. You cannot tell that person and said no, I am from aftercare. The person is not from whatever it is, become your problem. So now what you do is you go to somebody in Msomi and tell them, I have got this call and this person, you refer them and then you follow up with them, have you address this problem. And therefore what we really look in innovation is being resourceful in providing solution. And many times when people looking at look at innovation, they think innovation is a technology matter. Innovation is not a technology is about solving problems. And those problems can be solved in a matter of technology. They can be solved in another way. But I think it starts with looking at problems, looking at challenges and saying, how do I solve that problem? And therefore we need to create a culture of solve problems for all of us. And that is normally the skill I teach the people. So yes, I normally have good conversation with my children and they tell me, Money, please, for now, just be a mother. Don't be the teacher and the coach and tell me what other good I will try. I don't know if I know the difference, but I will try because any conversation with me, it's a conversation about challenging your thinking, your way of thinking, and the action you're going to take. And I think once you do that, then you can help people to think differently and you can help to people to find solutions to the problem. And once you are able to find solutions to problems, you can innovate. So that is the approach and that is the kind of so it is in our core values. And we demonstrate and again probably come from the environment where I come from a chartered accountant, we go through three years training and coaching and therefore we say 70% of our job of development is done on the job coaching, 70%, 20%. It is more like peer group learning and 10% in classroom. That is the profession where I come from and I believe that it has helped me grow in areas where I never knew I could do. I always thought I'm not an innovative person, I'm just a good auditor. I will not lead the company, I will not become a CEO. I think that training has helped me to think differently and that is how I engage with my team.
Nikita Taniparti: I think I was going to say it's easier said than done to challenge conventions, but you've made it obvious that actually it might be easier. And thinking about the core values. Sometimes there is a tension, especially women leaders today, who sometimes find. I find it hard to find that balance between creating success that society might expect and creating a holistic life that is about a lot more so. From advice that you have gathered over your career and your life, what advice would you give to other women trying to find that balance?
Nangula Uaandja: I think two things. Number one. And this is courtesy of Anna Marie Slaughter. I think she's an American lady who works at the university. And she worked, I think, with Hillary Clinton in the State Department at some point. And she wrote something on women can still not have it on. So, number one, I think as women, of course, accepting that we can still not have it all. You cannot be a full-time mother and a full-time professional. You will die. I'm sorry for the use of a better word is you cannot. But I have seen, especially in our culture, that women are still in a place where they are forced to do it all. So I'm sorry. I used to I kind of used a few examples, but here comes my 11-year-old son, who's now 11. But at the time I think he was seven and so on. So he was telling me, Mommy, I think our teachers favorite mother is so and so's mother. And I say, Why is so-and-so's mother your favorite friend to the teacher? Because she comes to the school, then she brings cookies and she feels whatever. And I think maybe my face looked a little bit this one did because I just realized I will not be able to measure up to this mother. And then you look, the thing is, is a no, don't worry, mom, you're still my favorite also. So that was good to hear that I'm still his favorite, although I'm not the favorite of the teacher, which says that the main message. So I have to accept that I cannot be leading an institution of being there and at the same time baking cookies and taking them to school. I might try, but it's not my strength and I don't want it to be the area of my focus. I need to accept that that is not what I need to do. Of course, I need to accept that I need to be a mother. I need to accept that I need to be there for my children. But I need to also accept that I will not be able to compete with the perfect mother who is full-time at work, at home, and who's choice. It's also a great and brilliant choice. Just like that, mother will not be able to compete with me in the professional area. We are making a difference. We need to make peace with that. And I think many times and that is a conversation I had with young ladies at BWT one year ago saying, I think many times the pressure comes from ourselves, the pressure sometimes comes from our families, but then the pressure comes from society. So number one, me as a person, I need to make a decision. Number two, me and my family need to sign up to that decision. And then number three, we need to kind of allow society things so that that's what you think. But in our family, it works differently. We need to make peace with that. So that is the first one. The second one, which is then two. That one is then you must have a good support structure and support structure is there support structure is because you and your spouse have decided that you will be the career woman and he will be at home or the support structure is both of you are career people and therefore you need other people who will fill in. And I think that is one thing that I've been blessed with. I've been blessed with people in my life that have been there for my children. I've been blessed with brothers, sisters and friends who are able when I'm traveling to pick up my children, sometimes I travel and I forget to tell my sister I have trouble. Then I desire her calling me. Have you made arrangements to drop kids to school? No. Sorry. So. So. So I have got people in my life who will help me to make sure that I do not drop the ball. And therefore that support structure is very, very important. So those are the two things. Number one, accept that you cannot have it all. You cannot be 100% in both. And number two, have a good support structure. I think that has worked for me and that's what I would recommend for other women.
Nikita Taniparti: I will definitely keep that in mind. I know I could talk and ask you questions for the rest of time, but I know we have a lot of audience questions coming in, so I want to take a step back actually, and ask more about your role at the NFB, because something we talked previously about was some of the obstacles and challenges you faced. But in specifically getting a true investment, what's the biggest challenge? Is it getting investors to be more aware of where Namibia is? Is it the commitment device of going from interest to investment? Is it the aftercare? Is it making sure that investment brings about then the downstream societal benefits? Also, what keeps you up at night?
Nangula Uaandja: So I think maybe let's start with Namibia. Yes, there are places where we need to make sure that we put Namibia on the map. It is not probably the first country in Africa that people think about when they want to invest. So there is that portion, that portion of investment promotion. But what I'm saying, currently, we made the. Presentation to Cabinet. And we are seeing that the effort that is being made in that effort is not only being made by the media investment, promotion and development, but actually we said that the chief promotion, the Namibian promoter is our president. He's the head of the Namibia Investment Promotion and Development Board. And yes, he's the head of Namibia. And wherever he goes, he makes sure that he takes a team with that is meeting with business delegation. And he has been doing that for years. And I think that message is there. And yes, we are seeing quite a number of investments. So where we are currently standing right now, we are standing at a place where we are not putting together projects enough for people to invest because we have got enough investors that are coming in with their project. So I think that is a good place to be. So facilitating impact is what we have. So yes, we need to get Namibia on the map, especially in one of the diversified in some of the diversified industries and sectors that we want. We are promoting Namibia and we are going on investment promotion effort then. Then beside doing that, then what we need to do is the facilitation. One of the challenges that we face is if you look, Namibia is ranking on the ease of doing business even though that report is no longer the we were ranked at number 104. So when the president appointed me, one of the two of the things that he gave me as the mandate is, number one, we must improve Namibia's ease of doing business ranking and Namibia's competitiveness ranking. So those two, it's internal work that we need to do. Namibia So while investors are there, what they were doing before is the institutions that we have in place. They were not empowered and capacitated enough to solve the challenges and support investors. And I think that is the one difference that we have. So with the board now in place, we have been given sufficient resources that are necessary for us to facilitate investment. And therefore, therefore the speed with which we implement is actually what is keeping me up at night saying as a people and as a country and as a public sector, will we respond to the requests before us with enough speed? Because these are a few things that we need to correct among us. So with a presentation that we made to Cabinet, we identified, these are the investments, for example, that we have. Some of them could be stalled. Some of them are taking time. And for each one of them, this is the reason. Yet some of them are in the hands of the private sector and the project promoters. But some of them is because we are awaiting a policy that need to be finalized or some of them we are waiting for license to be issued. The good thing is that when we made the presentation, government made a commitment of saying come back to us and on a monthly basis give a report on this committee on how this is progressing. So, yes, I think most of what was keeping me awake at night was our own coordination. But I have got the support that is necessary for me to do that coordination, bringing investors. I think we are doing well as a nation to make sure that we promote Namibia and especially with our current green hydrogen potential, the current oil discoveries. I am feeling like we need to promote and that maybe are not as a country of saying these Namibia, I think we are now getting there on the map. To promote Namibia as an investment in other sector than other than natural resources. It's one thing that we are now doing as a board. And then when investors come to make sure that we facilitate investment and yes, the aftercare, that is the challenges that we need to address.
Nikita Taniparti: Yeah. And just to probe a little bit, when you talk about the rankings of the doing business or competitiveness indicators, what are those rankings not capturing? If you could change those, kind of that's what the world looks at. But there's more to the story. So what do you think needs to happen beyond just those rankings to create that investor confidence in the country?
Nangula Uaandja: Yeah. So I think maybe from a competitiveness report, for example, what it's not capturing. So Namibia is a country with 2.5 million people. So everybody kind of tells you are a country to make 2.5 million and therefore they tell you market size is one of the determining factor. But then we say, okay, Namibia, a country with 2.5 million. Yes. If you want to come to Namibia as an investor and still to Namibians, we do not have sufficient market size, but we have got great market access. So what about the fact that we are part of SACU and therefore if you invest in Namibia, you've got unlimited access to South Africa. But on the letter to Swaziland in Namibia, what about the fact that we are not part of the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement? They are the access that we have got to then a market in the US and EU. We are probably the only African country that is exporting meat to China, EU and America. So that is the example. The other one that I think does not happen is always sometimes speaking to the right people. So somebody issued a report the other day, and I'm wondering, this person didn't speak to me and they've got views on Namibian economy. I wonder how can that view have that view if I am having this whole list of investment projects and nobody spoke to me, so identifying who they speak to and having a balanced view about who they speak to in-country, I think that is. But so who do you speak to in-country? Do you have a balanced view? Do you only listen to one or two players in the private sector and make up your mind? Or do you really speak to private sector players more than one public sector players? And then, of course, make sure that every you are not only keeping to your last year list, you find out if there is a new kid on the block and also speak to that kid on the block and say if they have got hope, what is that hope based on? I think that is probably one of the two things that if you ask me now that we will change. I am not saying that the reports are completely wrong. I think the report there's a lot of truth in the rankings from what of some of the items that we are experiencing that yes, as a country, there's a few things. We have got the will, we have got the intention. But what was missing was the coordination. So we have got many, many institutions, and each one of those institutions was acting in isolation. So from the ease of doing business and therefore we need to work on manners, on how can we bring about coordination and how do we make sure that these who like one point of entry, that an investor can speak to one person and they will be able to be linked to all of public sector in public service. So, yes, they are not saying that the report are incorrect. I think there is a lot of truth to the report. But yes, there is one or two things that can be done.
Nikita Taniparti: And if we think about maybe a sector like green energy, that's everyone's trying to understand it as it evolves. It's not the same as maybe a conventional sector where investors know what to look for. So how do you mobilize the resources or the information regulation ideas to help promote investment in something new like green energy?
Nangula Uaandja: So the good thing with green energy, I think that His Excellency did very well at the beginning, is made sure that he's economic advisor, was almost like taken away from many other responsibilities and given the role of green hydrogen commission saying this is a new sector, we know nothing about it, we want everything and this is the timeline. And, that green hydrogen commissioner spend his time understanding what is this green hydrogen sector? Who is the best? What drives it? And I think by the time we got to the table, I think we were probably faster than any other country in the world. And I'm not saying we were the first. I'm saying we were faster because other countries were ahead of us. Other countries came after us. But I think something that was done is we were really, really fast in coming up to where we are. So because of that, we have gathered materials, we have reached out to players in the industry throughout the world and we have got quite significant interest. And yes, for that one. Then we have got the green hydrogen commissioner. Then what we did, what the President did, and also is to set up a structure, an inter-ministerial committee, so that in the ministerial committee bringing all the kind of type of organizations that are required to drive this together. And they are having a meeting every two weeks to discuss green hydrogen, and it's called the Green Hydrogen Council. And what are we going to do with that? And because of that, I think we have got a good strategy that is being driven right from the top. And I PDB had the role of saying, how do we bring the private sector in and what is their role? And the green hydrogen commissioner is bringing it all together. So the setup and the structure was great from the beginning. It had quite good focus. And because of that, the promotion is is being actually led by His Excellency and the Green Hydrogen Commissioner and then specifically the Investment Board, providing the support to the investors that are being invited to the countries, making sure that we support and making sure that we bring our private sector in and making sure that we are taking along our president in green hydrogen commissioning effort.
Nikita Taniparti: Right. And I think while it's challenging to have so many voices in the room, have to agree to something to make it a reality, that's how you might meet, get the necessary buy in to make a theory, a reality. And so we we talked a little bit about the goals of investment promotion on the social development side. And there is a question from the audience about how the government thinks about more conventional, traditional systems of taxation with the idea of social investment. And they ask, for example, instead of having a large investor paying taxes on profit, what if that amount of investment was specifically invested towards an upskilling program or kind of a more direct channel for that profit to go in the country? So how do you think about this, how Namibia thinking about this?
Nangula Uaandja: Yes. So we are not there yet. And I think, of course, where we are not yet that there yet is because for example, our physical budget at this stage really funds a lot of social programs. You had probably, for example, Namibia has got the best-ranked roads in Africa. So investment in infrastructure comes from government and government entities. Our education system is a universal education system which is free. We have got a medical that is free, for all people, except those that belong, of course, to medical aid. But even if you belong to a medical aid, you can go to state facilities for free. So government is really, really supporting a lot of activities. And we have got training programs with vocational training. And because of that, for a government to reduce their physical at this stage is a little bit limited. But what I know the Minister of Finance is doing is with our promotion effort, we need to almost come with the link of saying how do we increase our kind of base, our tax base, so that we can reduce the rate? And when we do that, we will be able to have conversation then that the type of conversations that you are having. So yes, they are, for example, strategic project that we are talking about currently about how do you incentivize strategic project is a conversation that we are having and in incentivizing strategic project is for example, we had a regime called the EP Z Export Processing Zone. If you are an investor that is coming to Namibia and 95% of your products or 90% of people that are going to be exported and not be put in Namibia, then you will pay zero tax. Unfortunately, with that one, we know that there is also a world. That is going against texts, heaven have beens, if one can put it that way. So we as Namibia was blacklisted by the EU because of a program like that one. So when we come up with nice incentives and text for so forth, we sometimes face challenges. So we had to pull out our epithet because we were listed by the EU as a tax haven, because our tax rate, we're kind of making entities move from countries and they end up paying tax somewhere at all because they can come to Namibia in the pretax. So we have to make sure that we work with the global community in coming up with taxes that actually respond to the needs of order to the fairness in the system. So having said that, and therefore then kind of saying it's a zero tax forever, it's probably not going to do two to play. But we need then we are now busy now studying saying, okay, if we are blacklisted for that, does that mean no incentives or is there some incentives that are working and we are busy finalizing.
Nikita Taniparti: And there may be some sequencing element to that as well. Exactly. And I think throughout our conversation and also having the privilege of knowing many people that I BDB, you have a very strong team and you obviously think very deeply about who you have around you working with you. So who do you look for when you recruit people? What are the skills and personalities and people that make your team a success?
Nangula Uaandja: Yeah. Thank you for that compliment for people. I actually think I've got a great team. I tell people I think we have a great the best team in Namibia, but I'm sure that it's open to debate. But yes, the one thing there's many people that's so many things about hiring. So for example, somebody like Simon Sinek will probably say high-level attitude and you can always develop the skills and some other people will say, have you slowly and fail fast, and therefore you kind of have to make sure that you learn from that. And therefore, yes, normally what you do with the hiring is that skills is critical and skills is important. But many times when we hire, we focus too much on skills and we be less attention on attitude and other aspect. So one thing I have learned and from the many mistakes I have made in my career and in Journey, is hiring just for skills and hiring the top student at university is all good and well, but that person must have a adaptability, adaptable kind of personality, and they must also have a learning ability. And of course, my own example is one, if I did not have adaptable and learning ability, John Maxwell says, when our ability, our distances or when our attitude, our distances, our ability, even the impossible become possible. I had abilities, but I think what helped me more was my attitude because first I am I was not the right person, but my attitude was attitude of learning. And because it was attitude of learning, I developed from a laboratory loving person to somebody who can actually lead people. So we need to make sure that when we hire our team, they must be good at what they do. And therefore we need to set the quota of things from a skill perspective. This is where you have to be. And then number two, it's then from an attitude and psychometric assessment level of saying these people, which kind of people are we having on the team? And the good thing, I think that we have and having an inclusive team is when we hired a team, I was concerned that what if all people come out are black females? I cannot have a team of black females only. I cannot have a team of me as a black female and all the other people are white males. So I was concerned about that and I thought, okay, do I go to one of the panel and tell them, please know this is your first candidate. But no, we have to go for your second one because my diversity numbers are not working. Luckily, I did not have to do that. So I think I prayed and I got the answers and they point that out. And so it all worked out very well. But I think at least in the beginning, I knew what I wanted. I wanted people that have got the right skillset and that right skill set is the technical skill set, but also the attitude and the soft skill set. I wanted those people. Then number two is those people must be a diverse team. And because of that, whenever we are looking through everything, we knew that we are making sure that we are getting that.
Nikita Taniparti: Yeah. Yeah, no. And I think you've learned a lot from your past. And I wanted to kind of close out our talk by asking you to reflect a bit on your past and look ahead to the future. So when you look back, what would you tell your younger self, your 18-year-old self, ready to take on Namibia and the world? And maybe this even includes an example of a mistake that you are about to make because we talk a lot about achievements, but maybe what's a mistake or a failure that has really shaped who you are today?
Nangula Uaandja: Yeah. So you know what I look at in life now? I have very, very few regrets. And it is not because I have not made mistakes. It's because I think I am the sum or the product of my experiences, the bad ones and the good ones. And I've had my fair share. I have had my fair share in my personal life, whether it is tragic loss and so forth. And I have had my fair share of my career where I was probably always ranked the number one and ranked one and being one at university. And I came to a place where I'm told, you are not the darling here today, because although you are good, technically you are not good with people. And if you don't sort that one out, irrespective of your good technical, we will fire you. So, so I have got those experiences, but I believe that those experience of this. So normally people ask, what will you change? And I'm saying, I will probably not change anything because I love what I'm doing. I love where I am. And it's because I'm a product of my experiences. What do I need to do more? As I look forward, they say, Look, I need to listen more. I am not a very good listener. And the none of the mistakes that I've made in life is because. And it is because before I put the problem on the table, I probably interrogate the problem. And because I think about the problem long before I brought it in the table, I always believe I have analyzed it in all angles. And when I come, I know what I what needs to be done. So but then sometimes I leave other people behind because when I come I have thought about this for the last year and the next person is new and that person may actually look at it from a different angle than mine because my judgment might become a little bit kind of biased because of that experience. And that is one of the items that I'm continuously learning and continuously developing. It. Been with me for life, and it used to be with me. I think I accepted that every day to listen to the other voices in the room and consider what I'm suggesting. Is that still the right course of action or do I need to change that? So. That is. Though. Tell. My younger self. I think. Because my younger. So forth. Not that it might kind of match as a. Accepted the weakness among black people alive. I leave to challenge myself. It starts with being honest about who you are. Be my team. My team are not very good. At least you are allowed to call me up and said to the other person. So if you are not that person in the room and you think I'm not listening to the other person, call me out and say No black, give the other person an opportunity. And that is holding myself accountable in that regard.
Nikita Taniparti: I have no idea what you're talking about because you are a wonderful person and I learn from you all the time. And that's actually going to be the theme of my closing question is, looking forward, you've now become a role model for me. Who are the role models in your life? And also you've worn so many hats throughout your life. The scientist, accountant, private sector. Public sector. What's next for you?
Nangula Uaandja: So role models. I've got so many. So of course, it always start with my parents. What my father and my mother taught me is what keeps me to date. We used to say that if you get in my car with my father from there not to win, because about 800 kilometers he will start preaching by the time you get into the car and he will a bridge and if you to. So it's all. Oh, my God. This will. We are in the car with my father again trained us and therefore he is my role model. He was not educated, but for that he has achieved a lot. So my parents, my mother is strong women who have achieved a lot. I'm a role model so I have got quite a number in Namibia. Whether it is the First Lady, whether it is our Prime Minister, whether it's our deputy prime minister. Women like Hillary Clinton, these women that I admire a lot. And then, of course, these leaders, whether they are male and female, David Fourie, the guy who recruited me to Namibia, I think is the most brilliant person in the world, somebody like John Maxwell, who just writes and I am who I am today because of reading his work. And then other leaders whose work I follow, like the Simon Sinek, have talked about Patrick Clancy on him and a few other people that if I needed to develop in my people management skills and in my leadership, I, I read a lot of their work and then of course I am very much good on the Bible so that I believe it's the top leadership book. I have read it every year from Genesis to Revelation, and every year I find new leadership tips that helps me on this journey. So that is where I draw my inspiration. Those were my role models. What next for me, I think. Normally I tell people one thing that I'm very good at is being focused on one thing. So when people are used to ask me, Where will you be in five years? I say, I've got no clue because right now I'm here and this is what I am doing and that is the only thing I'm thinking about. So when the next opportunity comes, God will open the door and when He opens, I know that is the door and I will enter. And I think right now here is the news, the tuition we entering my second year and I'm seeing that we need to take this institution to a level I am committed here for a five year contract that I have been given beyond the five years. I have got no clue to whatever happens the door, the right door will open. And when I win that, when I'm shown it is the right door, I will enter that right to do so. Normally. That is the I for that question. And it's not because I'm being trying to be funny. It is really because I've never ended up where I thought I will end up. I have ended up where I did not. Like I told you, I thought I would be a scientist right now in the laboratory or maybe working somewhere at like an engineer at Nassau or something like that. But I guess you look at where I am...
Nikita Taniparti: So it can still happen.
Nangula Uaandja: and where I plan to end up. So I am looking for the door that will be there after five years.
Nikita Taniparti: No, it can still happen. No, we are very, very we learned a lot during this conversation. I especially think you left me with a lot of practical and professional and personal advice, and I'm sure people listening even later will gain a lot of wisdom. And I'm very excited that the growth lab gets to come and continue working with you and your team. I think we're very privileged and honored to be able to know so much about Namibia and help the country at this time of transition. And I wanted to say thank you to all the participants and the people joining this call. If you have any questions, please reach out to us and let us know. And Nangula, as always, it's been a complete pleasure to get this time with you and we really appreciate it.
Nangula Uaandja: Thank you very much and thank you for a good talk. It's a pleasure to be with you. And it's a pleasure to work with the hub of the growth lab. We are doing great work together. And together we can make a difference for our country.
Nikita Taniparti: Absolutely. Absolutely.