In Namibia, the manufacturing sector is dominated by meat processing, fish processing, fabricated metals, food and beverage, and other manufacturing. In spite of the country’s seeming march to industrialization, the country until recently lacked the capacity to produce basic items like toothpicks.
When Nadapewa Embula, 26, realized this in 2018, she was not only shocked but felt embarrassed that her country could not produce toothpicks. After graduating from the Namibia University of Science and Technology in 2018 and spending weeks and months searching for a job, she decided to pursue entrepreneurship by manufacturing toothpicks.
“After I completed my studies at the Namibia University of Science and Technology in 2018, I couldn’t get a job,” Embula told The Namibian. “One of the main reasons is because of the outstanding amount that I owed the school, I couldn’t get my printed degree,” Embula added.
Producing toothpicks readily came to mind because there was a demand for them but they were not produced in her country. The young business management graduate discovered the camel thorn tree and started operation in 2021 albeit on a small scale. Her customers are largely individuals and a few tuck and home shops. In the long run, she hopes to find her products in all restaurants and hotels, especially establishments serving African cuisine.
While production is still small-scale, the road has not been smooth sailing. One of her major challenges has been getting raw materials to increase production.
“There are too many delayed orders because I have to polish the thorns and make sure that hygiene is applied. The lack of finance to buy the proper equipment to make the toothpicks is a problem,” she said.
Finance is also another challenge for her as well as equipment to process the toothpicks. She explained that the cost that goes into producing toothpicks is more than N$10 000 ($620), which includes transportation, packaging, labels, hygiene products, and marketing, among others.
The good news is Embula was recently selected as part of some 30 Namibian entrepreneurs that will run on the 2022 Sanlam bridge program. According to The Namibian, “the program aims at providing young Namibians with the opportunity to acquire the necessary skills to run their businesses and receive the necessary seed capital to get them started.”