Concessions as a means to Empower

01 April 2021 | Tourism

In line with its policy of developing “natural capital” the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism (and by extension the Namibian government) awards “Concession Areas” to various organisations or communities, allowing the concession holders to make full or in some cases restricted use of areas and their resources on a shared or exclusive basis.

The idea is to promote and conduct tourism activities on state-owned land and infrastructure, based on commercial business principles for a specified period of time. The principle is not new to Namibia, but after independence the different types of concessions (e.g. tourism, hunting and timber harvesting) in protected as well as communal areas, were regulated under a uniformed policy framework. As a part of that change, there was a renewed focus on the economic empowerment of formerly disadvantaged Namibians through the tourism, hunting and forestry industries.

The most frequent use are guided tours, which are essentially off-road adventures along the coast through the majestic dunes of the Namib Desert - this stretch is part of the Namib-Naukluft Park - leading from Luderitz to Walvis Bay or even traversing the Namib Desert as you leave Solitaire past the Sägeberg and alongside the Tsauchab Valley towards Conception Bay. Operators like Omalweendo Safaris, Namib Offroad Excursions, Uri Adventures and others are old hands at this.

An exiting option is a safari on horseback in the Namib and obviously the hot air ballooning offered in the area around the Gondwana Collection lodges near Sesriem.

Currently the Ministry lists 21 lodge-enterprises that are allowed to operate as “Lodges in national parks and protected Areas”. The most well-known ones are the various lodges around Palmwag and Sesfontein as well as the areas of Purros, Sanitatis, Orupembe and Etanga in the Kaokoveld, and for that matter all of the concessions in the Skeleton Coast National Park. Names like Hobatere and Hoanib Camp (the latter of Wilderness Safaris), are well-known, locally as well as abroad.

These types of concessions are most prominent in the Kaoko area, where conservancy is a part of life, simply because the local folk still largely rely on their traditional way of life.

To a lesser extent along the Skeleton Coast, which is pure and simply a tourism highlight on account of its beauty and its desert-adapted wildlife, but surely in the rest of Kaokoveld and a large part of Damaraland.

The same applies in the area of the Khaudum National Park and the further routes into the Zambezi Strip, where the communal utilization of natural resources in the concessional areas, forms part and parcel of their conservancy efforts.