Spearheading change in the steel industry
Rooftech Manufacturers Co. is one of the few companies dedicated to bridging the gap in the Namibian steel industry.
The company's products include carbon steel, stainless steel, steel pipes, steel coils, steel plates and building materials like steel bars, wires, spiral coils and round steel. It also makes seamless pipes and welded pipes; cold and hot rolled plates/rolls, thick plates and colour-coating plates, amongst many other products.
Rooftech is equipped with a perfect product production line, with its main equipment including roll forming, a cutting machine, bending machine, punch machine, water jet cutting machine, polishing machine, plate shear machine and wire drawing machine. "We are quality-oriented, constantly achieving product optimisation to create high-quality steel. That's our constant pursuit. The products have passed the National Security 3 Certification, EU CE certification, and IS09001 international quality system certification," Rooftech owner Ndatulumukwa Haikali said.
Haikali hails from Ehafo village in the Endola constituency in the Ohangwena Region.
"I received my primary education at Ehafo Combined School, then transferred to Etalaleko Secondary School (now Niilo Taapopi) from grades eight to 12. I then continued my studies in economics at Namibia University of Science and Technology (NUST), and finally studied international economics and trade at Peking University in China."
On his list of notable achievements, Haikali said he founded youth in agriculture organisations, through which he "impacted thousands of farmers, changed the image of agriculture and positively influenced United Nations programmes and financing schemes for institutions such as Agribank".
He is also the author of three books, the first being 'Omona wamukweni Eyoka' in 2016. He published 'Improving SMEs Development Policy' in 2018 and 'Accelerating Youth Engagement in Agriculture' in 2021, and is now working on his fourth book, titled 'Principles of Financial Freedom'.
"These are my greatest achievements in life, but even more important to me is that this year I began building a clinic to help the elderly in my village and neighbouring villages," he said.
Bridging the gap
According to reports, Namibia currently lacks its own steel production facilities and is entirely reliant on imports, the majority of which originate from South Africa. Because of these inconsistencies, Haikili was able to devise an alternative. He had always wanted to work in the manufacturing sector, providing value to raw materials and creating as many jobs as possible while contributing to the development to the country at large.
"As a result, I've been conducting comprehensive research on which type of manufacturing I should pursue, keeping in mind the likelihood of success and chances for strong market demand in the local economy and neighbouring countries. That's when I decided to go into the steel manufacturing business," he said.
"To begin with, there is no steel manufacturing plant in Namibia, however, we utilise steel products virtually every day, particularly in structural engineering, construction and welding. We import steel from China, as does South Africa, which imports 90% of its steel from China and India," he continued.
"I started working on Rooftech in 2020."
After a lot of hard work, the plan came to fruition in 2023. Only after he was certain of everything and had done 50% of the work did he proceed to establish the company and obtain clearance certifications in March, he noted.
Haikali is no stranger to adversity in his job as CEO, with his initial difficulty being access to funds, something he believes he cannot emphasise enough. "I funded the whole factory plant from my own pocket. I purchased machines on my own."
Due to a lack of funds, he approached the Development Bank of Namibia (DBN) in February to request financial assistance to enable him to purchase raw materials after purchasing the machines. However, this request was rejected.
He then applied and received seed capital from Erongo Marine Enterprise, and received N$122 485, which he said was a "major boost" during Rooftech's establishment process.
He expressed concern about institutions such as DBN and the lack of collaboration with the youth, claiming they do not provide the help they proclaim to offer to young Namibians who want to change their prospects through economic initiatives.
"Most institutions that were established by the government to spearhead youth initiatives do not fulfill their commitments to us, even when we fit the requirements to access funding."
"Given that this is a steel production entity, growing Namibia's industrial base and exporting locally manufactured steel, as well as the fact that I had provided proof that I had already purchased machines and set up the processing factory, and also noting that I had provided collateral of my property, I was under the impression that I would be eligible.
"I also provided supply agreements from prospective clients, but they rejected them because they were not persuaded that the nature of the business would work out," he narrated.
Not only does he face challenges as a business owner, but being a business owner in the steel industry comes with its own set of hurdles as well. "Firstly, it is very capital and labour-intensive. As a result, arranging for finances becomes a challenge. Getting a business loan of such a huge amount to set up a steel plant is a difficult task," he said.
The steel industry relies heavily on high-temperature thermal or chemical transformations to achieve the desired final outcome. However, this kind of operational environment inherently poses significant risks, making it exceptionally challenging to prevent unexpected accidents and ensure worker safety, Haikali said.
"Consequently, the absence of precise management tools severely limits the ability to predict failures within operations, resulting in unplanned shutdowns and an overreliance on corrective maintenance methods. This approach not only disrupts production but also incurs unnecessary costs and prevents optimal resource allocation."
Despite this, Haikali is exceptionally honoured about his success, dubbing Rooftech a "world-class steel company". He is also humbled that he currently employs more than 26 young people and is able to sell 40% to Angola and Zambia respectively.
"We also started with the manufacturing of telecommunications and power towers, which we supply to power and telecommunications companies, both locally and export. Previously these towers were only made in South Africa in the SADC region. I therefore am honuored to take up the market share."
He added that he is looking forward to opportunities and challenges in the business environment from a position of strength in order to expand RoofTech outside Namibia.
"More significantly, I want to open six branches of RoofTech VivaBuild in local towns and overall reach the sale target of N$289 million within the first year of operation," he exclaimed with enthusiasm.