Tourism is a major industry in Namibia. This country is one of the leading tourism destinations in Africa because of its unique landscapes and vast array of wildlife. Communal conservancies, through their joint ventures, contribute significantly to Namibia’s tourism industry. There are currently 52 joint venture agreements between conservancies and private sector operators. These agreements are set up to ensure that locals in the area benefit from tourism. The funds are used to pay game guards and management staff in conservancies, as well as providing benefits to the community, and funding anti-poaching activities.
In Zambezi region, each conservancy has an enterprise officer who is responsible for contract negotiations with joint venture partners – private sector tourism investors – for implementation of agreements and dealing with contractual issues. Rendering services to NACSO’s Business, Enterprise and Livelihoods Working Group, WWF’s Assistant Business Advisor - Ingelore Katjingisiua, and IRDNC’s Enterprise Development Officer - Reuben Mafati, presented a financial dashboard to Mayuni and Mashi conservancies in early February this year.
So what’s a financial dashboard?
The members present were asked the following questions: “What is a car dashboard and what does it show? When you see a red light on the dashboard how will you respond?” “You stop and fix it” exclaimed Mashi conservancy’s manager, Victor Makendano. Comparing a financial dashboard to a car dashboard indicates what is going on, and what might be wrong with the system.
The financial dashboard was created because the Joint Management Committee did not fully understand the business finances. It is a tool that that helps discussions on financial management, and allows for transparency and trust between the operator and the conservancy.
The two facilitators explained some terms and key parts of the contracts between the conservancy and the operator. Conservancy members were shown how to calculate the income they should receive from the lodge operator. The dashboard contains both figures and graphs for a clear understanding of joint venture finance.
The challenge encountered during this training was the lack of knowledge about the meaning of technical terms, and the calculation of things like net turnover and occupancy rate. The manager of Mayuni conservancy, Zoricky Musole, admits that the ‘tank’ showing on their dashboard was always quarter full and they lacked knowledge on how to calculate their income. The management committee members, area representatives and traditional authority members, field officers and enterprise officers were pleased with the presentation and would like to implement the dashboard in their conservancies.
There is still potential for tourism growth in communal conservancies. Mayuni conservancy is currently looking for an investor for Mazambala lodge. With a better understanding of business finances between parties and more transparency, tourism in conservancies should continue to flourish.