Inside Sven Thieme’s independence diary

Sven Thieme, is Executive Chairman of Namibia’s largest employer in the private sector and trusted brand, the Ohlthaver & List (O&L) Group, and President of the Namibia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NCCI), reflects on the past 27 years and shares his excitement on the prosperous future that awaits Namibians.

WINDHOEK—The O&L Group has enjoyed tremendous successes these past 27 years and the journey has been nothing short of amazing!

Many businesses were created, re-engineered and redesigned to create amazing experiences with enduring impact while O&L has become synonymous with quality, innovation and creativity.

Similar to any other business, the O&L Group has had its fair share of challenges over the past 27 years that includes amongst others, the challenge of access to international expertise and knowledge to drive transformation.

Many businesses which had failed to keep up with changing times, were exposed by their heavy reliance on Namibia only.

Today we have transformed tremendously where we now have a healthy balance of import and export, making us much more resilient. Other challenges included getting rid of old ways of doings things through the transformation process.

We had to bid farewell to partners who didn’t fit the culture of innovation and creativity and in some cases moved on from being a one-man show, to a corporate environment with rigorous process and procedures as well as full governance. It was tough, especially to get people on our side, and making sure that they understand and embrace our purpose of “Creating future and enhancing life.”

Despite the challenges the O&L Group enjoyed quite a number of successes such as the Group’s resilience and determination to become less dependent on micro-economic components.

We introduced world class practices and world class expertise while creating a culture where people love to come to work, where people have a bigger sense of purpose, and where people not only adore the O&L values but live the purpose, within the organization and beyond. Everyone here at O&L understands the impact their contribution has on the future of not only O&L but in their communities and the country at large.

Furthermore, we have positioned ourselves as not just a profit-driven entity, but a catalyst for achieving the ideals and goals of the President’s Harambee Prosperity Plan and that of Vision 2030 by positively contributing to the eradication of poverty and reducing income inequality amongst others.

These are but some of the significant achievements for the O&L Group since Independence.

We are faced with a tough economic climate which poses a lot of challenges. However, we should remain focused and not lose the opportunity that is presented by a good crisis – the opportunity of finding breakthroughs we never would have found had it not been for the tough times.

We have built a solid foundation, with strong expertise, and a passionate workforce that has embraced and adopted the O&L purpose enabling us to be a competitor of note on the playing field.

By bringing thinking to everything, I am excited about the future of the O&L Group, Business Namibia and the country as a whole as I am confident it is a future of stability and prosperity.

Namibia is undoubtedly one of the most peaceful and economically stable countries in Africa – one of the positive attributes he appreciates about the Namibian government.

It is inspiring and of note that the collective leadership of public and private partnerships have earned Africa’s – and dare I say the world’s – recognition, respect and trust for Namibia and the leaders who have developed our country, lifted people out of poverty and paved the way for sustainable and equitable prosperity.

While it is a continuous journey, I am inspired by the significant reduction in poverty levels of the country and the successful integration of people to build one nation.

Furthermore, and amongst others, we have made great strides in infrastructure development while the cooperation between government and the private sector and the conducive business environment created by government are all celebratory successes that deserves pride and recognition.

On the flipside, the entitlement culture, corruption, ill-discipline and generally efficiency and effectiveness are challenges that need to be addressed with a sense of urgency.

This includes all sectors namely: the public, private, primary, secondary and tertiary sectors.

A simple example is the basic understanding of respecting traffic signs and rules. Imagine the chaos we would find ourselves in if we just ignored the rules whether it be not indicating the turn you’re about to take or skipping a red robot.

We will eventually not reach our destination as a result of the consequences of ill-discipline.

I challenge the corporate sector to unite as one voice by partnering with government to create a sustainable future for generations to come.

In order to move forward we need to get rid of hidden agendas and leave the past where it belongs. Think, share and act, on addressing national concerns such as poverty eradication and income inequality. We have the power and ability to secure a positive future for our children, their children and the generations to come.

High levels of debt and inefficiencies will be at the cost of our children going forward. We need to demonstrate more patriotism for our country by supporting local produce, products and services. Many people want their children to have jobs, but they forget that for that to happen they need to support local.

I want to conclude by reminding every Namibian of the significant part he/she plays in building a prosperous future for Namibia.

The journey will be much easier if we become less selfish and greedy and, give more recognition to each other. We have to bring thinking to everything and understand that common sense is not always common.

Let’s remind ourselves that we all are leaders in our own right – so recognize and appreciate the leader within you. But remember that true and respected leadership often requires that we listen more than we talk. That way we’ll learn more. Here’s to 27 years of visionary leadership – may we as a nation rise as the African gem unfolding into stardom. Happy Independence Day!

By Sven Thieme Executive Chairman (O&L) Group