As a service provider to GIPF, in my capacity as an Unlisted Investment Fund Manager, it is my duty to clarify and demystify mispresentations. I founded Business Financial Solutions in 2008, as an SME focused financial service provider. Under the BFS umbrella, we provide debt finance (under the Nampro Fund SPV), SME support services including incubation (for start-up entrepreneurs) and deliver various intervention programmes aimed at improving the ecosystem for enterprise development in Namibia and beyond.
We are not an opportunistic, short term gain operator, but a business committed to the advancement of SMEs. Thus, I wish to set the record straight on the following:
1. A favoured few – fiction!
Reference is made to a competitive process as per EoI issued in December 2008 (EOI Number: GIPF EO1010/2008 – Unlisted Investment Services) and others subsequently. Many applications were received and those that submitted meaningful concepts were selected. Many of those managers delivered catalytic interventions in the Namibian society, capacitating many entrepreneurs and growing businesses.
There is thus no reason to single out a few black managers, promoting the notion that black people cannot perform based on pure ability but only through some favour or corruption. Let us shy away from the CRAB syndrome! These managers have proven their capacity for success way before managing GIPF funds. Let us celebrate our own and capacitate those that have achieved success, enabling them to make even bigger impact. Let us increase the number of people that are economically productive to improve our collective output. Do not spend energies to try break down what others have built.
My 30 years of professional life has been dedicated to community and enterprise development, of which the last 19 years was focused on SME finance.
2. Allocation to persons – fiction
The funds allocated to fund managers are invested in investment vehicles held in trust for the GIPF. These funds do not come to the fund managers personal accounts but are placed in structures managed by independent board (of directors). Furthermore, these managers are subjected to strict regulatory supervision by the regulator, Namfisa. It is thus misleading to create the impression that managers have personal access to these funds.
To shed more light – I manage N$380 million of GIPF funds, which are deployed to support SMEs in Namibia. With this allocation (and funds from other investors), we were able to provide over 500 facilities, with total value exceeding N$1.7 billion. The evidence of our impact is in every single region of this country.
3. Pensioners compromised due to unlisted investment schemes - fiction
Less than 2% is presently invested in Unlisted Funds, thus the argument does not hold that unlisted investment managers are eroding value away from civil servants. The funds deployed by all fund managers are invested in local businesses. How does this turn out to be a bad thing?
4. GIPF not allowing people to borrow against their pension for housing - fiction
This is already in place. Is the problem the fact that it is not one of the cronies running this scheme? Why not support what is in place and build on it? There is room for improvement and that is what the discussion should focus on.
The housing problem has multiple facets, and the biggest challenge is the delivery of land through municipalities. Thus, all parties need to come to the table to contribute to the solutions. Energies should be channeled to dealing with this problem comprehensively and ensuring accountability of each party.
Namibia is facing many challenges. Some internally generated and some externally. These are challenging times and no “ego” or “political ambition” should supersede the need for us to focus our energies on improving this Motherland. The outcome does not justify the deeds! In the long run - Life only allows one to reap what you sow. Sow good seed – so you may harvest good fruits.
Readers and listeners – do not allow yourself to be misled. Question what you hear and do some homework. It is all at the tip of your fingers. It will be useful to compare the GIPF to other pension funds in this country to ensure context and fairness.
The conversation is bigger than this and should be structured constructively. There is merit in asking how we can make improvements to the GIPF to impact the members and society better. Unlisted investment managers should not be convenient toys for political gain.