NCPI – January 2019

The Namibian annual inflation rate edged lower for a second consecutive month, moderating to 4.7% y/y in January, following December’s 5.1% y/y increase in prices. Prices in the overall NCPI basket increased 1.2% m/m, the largest monthly increase in prices over the last twelve months. It has become the norm for rental price adjustments to be passed through in January, which explains the elevated monthly inflation rate. On a year-on-year basis, overall prices in four of the twelve basket categories rose at a quicker rate in January than in December, while six categories recording slower rates of inflation, and two categories recorded unchanged inflation rates. Prices for goods increased by 4.2% y/y while price increases for services slowed to 1.9% y/y in January from 4.9% y/y in December.

The effects of the accelerated pace at which transport prices increased since July 2018 have now passed-through to food prices. Food & non-alcoholic beverages (FNAB) and transport, the second and third largest basket items by weighting, respectively, were equally the largest contributors to annual inflation in January. Together these basket categories accounted for 2.0% of the total 4.7% annual inflation rate. Prices for the FNAB basket increased by 1.7% m/m and 5.7% y/y in January, while prices for transport decreased by 2.6% m/m but increased 7.3% y/y. Prices in all thirteen FNAB sub-categories recorded increases on a year-on-year basis with the largest increases being observed in the prices of vegetables, fruits, bread and cereals.

rices in two of the three transport sub-categories recorded slower annual price increases compared to December, while prices in the one sub-category increased at a quicker pace in January. Price increases relating to the purchase of vehicles slowed to 6.0% y/y in January compared to 6.8% y/y in December, while prices related to public transportation services increased by 18.6% y/y owing to the increases in taxi and bus fares in September.

The operation of personal transport equipment sub-category saw prices decrease by 2.8% m/m but increase 10.5% y/y. This month-on-month decrease in the costs of operating personal transportation can be attributed to the decrease in fuel pump prices enacted by the Ministry of Mines and Energy (MME) in January. The MME cut unleaded petrol and diesel prices in January by 90 c/l and 100 c/l, respectively, thus extending motorists more relief following fuel pump price cuts in December.


Alcoholic beverages and tobacco prices, making up approximately 12.6% of the overall inflation basket, was the third highest contributor to the annual inflation rate in January. Accelerated increases in the prices for both the alcohol and tobacco sub-categories were observed in January, with alcohol prices increasing by 6.7% y/y and tobacco prices increasing by 5.3% y/y.

The Housing and utilities category bears the largest weighting in the CPI basket, but the year-on-year rate of price increases for this category has been slowing since November last year. Prices increased by 1.9% m/m for this category which is a result of annual rental adjustments being put through every January. Year-on-year, price increases slowed to 2.9% y/y in January (the lowest since December 2015) following a 3.1% y/y increase in December. Prices for the rental payments for dwellings sub-category increased by 2.3% y/y in January while prices for regular maintenance and repairs increased by 3.3% y/y. Price increases in the electricity, gas and other fuels subcategory were relatively muted at 4.8% y/y compared to 4.9% y/y in December.

Easing fuel pump prices continue to afford the Namibian consumer some relief and can be seen in the Namibian annual inflation rate moderating from 5.1% y/y to 4.7% y/y in January. Although slightly higher than in December, lower oil prices have contributed towards curbing rising inflation. However, risks to the inflation outlook exist. Food inflation, which was the highest contributing basket item in January, could continue to rise at an accelerated pace as poor rainfall since the start of Namibia’s rainy season (ending in April) affects local food production. The resultant shortfall will necessitate an increase in imports that will lead to higher food inflation. Increased uncertainty in food security is most likely to offset any gains from easing transport inflation.

The Bank of Namibia (BoN) recently left rates unchanged when the MPC met on the 13th of February. In its policy statement, the BoN estimates that inflation will average 5.6% in 2019. Significantly higher than the 4.3% that annual inflation averaged in 2018, and likely hinged on a probable rise in food inflation. However, the BoN’s policy decisions are driven by the level of international reserves which the BoN currently estimates sufficient, at 4.2 months of import cover, to protect the currency peg with the rand. The BoN will remain mindful of the SARB’s rate path in 2019, with SA inflation expectations being the key focus of the SARB. SA inflation is expected to be contained well within the SARB’s 3% – 6% target band, pushing the likelihood of steady interest rates for 2019 increasingly higher. This would allow the BoN to keep monetary policy accommodative for as long as the SARB does the same.

New Vehicle Sales – January 2019

A total of 666 new vehicles were sold in January, which represents an 8.8% m/m decrease from the 730 vehicles sold in December, and a drop of 21.7% from the 851 new vehicles sold in January 2018. On a twelve-month cumulative basis, a total of 11,721 new vehicles were sold at January 2019 representing a contraction of 9.9% from the 13,007 sold over the same period a year ago. 2019 is thus off to a sluggish start as illustrated by the lowest monthly sales number since May 2009.

330 new passenger vehicles were sold during January, 6.5% higher than the 310 passenger vehicle sales sold in December. From a year-on-year perspective however, January 2019 new passenger vehicle sales were 18.3% lower than the 404 sold a year ago. Passenger vehicle sales have been impacted by amendments to the Credit Act that requires tighter credit conditions, as well as by reduced government expenditure and depressed consumer confidence in the current economic climate.

Commercial vehicle sales declined to 336 units in January, representing a contraction of 20.0% m/m and 24.8% y/y. During the month 301 light commercial vehicles, 14 medium commercial vehicles, and 21 heavy commercial vehicles were sold. On an annual basis, light commercial sales have dropped by 21.2%, medium commercial sales rose by 27.3%, and heavy and extra heavy sales have declined by 22.2%. On a twelve-month cumulative basis, light commercial vehicle sales fell 11.2% y/y, while medium commercial vehicle sales rose 11.4% y/y, and heavy commercial vehicle sales dropped 7.3% y/y.

Toyota started the year off with a 31.5% market share of new passenger vehicles sold, followed closely by Volkswagen with a 30.0% market share. They were followed by Kia and Mercedes with 6.4% and 5.8% of the market respectively, while the rest of the passenger vehicle market was shared by several other competitors.

Toyota also started the year off with a firm grip on the light commercial vehicle market with a 75.7% market share, with Isuzu in second place with a 5.6% share. Ford and GWM claimed 4.7% and 3.7% of the number of new light commercial vehicles sold for the year, respectively. Hino and Mercedes jointly lead the medium commercial vehicle category, each with 28.6% of the sales, while Man was number one in the heavy and extra-heavy commercial vehicle segment with 47.6% of the market share in January.

The Bottom Line

12-month cumulative new vehicle sales have been declining since December 2015, amounting to 11,721 at the end of January, a decline of 48.3% from the peak of 22,664 cumulative new vehicle sales recorded in April 2015. While January new vehicle sales have historically been low when compared to most other months, 2019’s January figure was the lowest since 2006. The prospects for new vehicle sales remain dim in the short- to medium-term as government remains committed to fiscal consolidation and the economy remains in a recession, putting pressure on demand and investment.

Building Plans – January 2019

A total of 162 building plans were approved by the City of Windhoek in January, representing a 78.0% m/m increase from the 91 in December. The value of building plans approved increased by N$207.8 million from N$64.9 million in December to N$272.7 million in January. 87 Buildings with a value of N$54.2 million were completed in January, versus 78 buildings worth N$16.4 million completed in December. January 2019 is off to a slightly better start in terms of both number and value of approvals, compared to January 2018 when 153 building plans worth N$269.3 million got the nod. On a twelve-month cumulative basis, 2,127 building plans worth approximately N$1.84 billion were approved, an increase in number of 11.8% y/y, but a decrease of 16.3% in value terms over the prior 12-month period.

In terms of number of approvals, additions to properties made up the largest portion of approvals. For the month of January, 131 additions to properties were approved with a value of N$34.8 million, N$197.9 million less in value terms than in January 2018, but 2 more than the number of additions observed in the first month of 2018.

New residential units were the second largest contributor to the total number of building plans approved in January. 29 new units worth N$167.9 million were approved in January, representing a 580.2% increase from the N$24.7 million approved in the first month of 2018. It is however worth noting that one of these approvals is a N$125.0 million residential project approved for the city centre.

The number of commercial and industrial units approved in January only amounted to 2, valued at N$70.0 million. This compares to 7 units valued at N$11.9 million approved in January 2018. On average over the last 20 years, 4 commercial units valued at N$19.6 million were approved in the first month of the year.

The 12-month cumulative number of building plans approved ticked up slightly in January with an 11.8% y/y increase. A total of 2,127 building plans to the value of N$1.8 billion were approved over the last 12 months which represents a decrease in value terms of 16.3% y/y. The majority of these approvals are additions to properties which are typically of low relative value. Growth in commercial and industrial construction activity remains extremely subdued as the decrease (on a 12-month cumulative basis) in credit extended to corporates also reflects.

With government still in a fiscal consolidation cycle and spending less on capital and infrastructure projects, we expect the sector to remain under pressure for most part of the year. The mid-term budget released late last year pointed to little additional public funds flowing into the sector. In fact, funds were prioritised to operational expenditure with the African Development Bank loan replacing the funding for larger infrastructure projects in 2019. Infrastructure funding from outside Namibia as well as public private partnerships are now necessary to drive the infrastructure investment that Namibia so desperately needs. We may see more efforts to attract and deploy funds from external sources in 2019 due to it being an election year, which may provide some potential for industry growth.