Namibia gets barcode for local products

Namibia now has its own barcode, also known as a product identification code, which is anticipated to jumpstart local participation in the global marketplace. The unique Namibian barcode was given final approval in May 2021 by the Global GS1 Office General Assembly in Geneva and was officially unveiled yesterday by trade minister, Lucia Iipumbu.  

A barcode is a way to encode information into a visual pattern represented by the black lines and white spaces on the product. This visual pattern can be read by a barcode scanner, which then translates the code for production systems and retail point of sales to understand. Barcodes are also used for quick identification and to track inventory. The barcode also incorporates a country code to verify the country of origin and Namibia’s unique number was is 631. The code of up to 13 numbers also identifies the manufacturer, the product and the production batch.

At yesterday’s barcode launch and the introduction of GS1 Namibia, which will administer industrial barcode implementation, Iipumbu explained that the project was initially embarked upon by the Namibia Trade Forum as part of the Retail Charter in 2016. 

This was done to better understand the most prominent market barriers for locally produced goods. 

“One of the factors that was found to significantly impact access to local markets was that of a barcode, a unique code that identifies a product and allows it to be sold. Until recently, Namibian products have had to obtain barcodes from South Africa and other jurisdictions. Needless to say, this has also compromised product traceability for Namibia goods. As a producer, you need to know exactly where your shipment of goods is, where they have come from and their destination. This certainty is only made possible by the use of GS1 barcodes,” said Iipumbu.  

To facilitate the process, the trade ministry established the Namibia Barcode Centre to establish Namibia as a recognised GS1 member organisation with a unique Namibian barcode for local goods. Consequently, the GS1 General Assembly took a unanimous decision to grant Namibia the licence to become a fully-fledged GS1 member organisation. 

Said Iipumbu: “The purpose of establishing a Namibian GS1 centre is to support the development of recognised, professional, finished products and encourage local manufacturers to sell their products inside and outside the local market. GS1 Namibia will carry on the administration, facilitation and allocation of barcodes as the official GS1 centre in Namibia.” 

She continued that through GS1 Namibia, the local business community is encouraged and given a platform through which they can expand their finished product basket and contribute to the trade ministry’s “Growth at Home” strategy through diversified value added products. 

“As a ministry, we are doing all we can to ensure that indeed the “Growth at Home” strategy is implemented. Thus, our focal point has been to ensure that Namibian made products have market access both locally and internationally,” said Iipumbu. 

She further explained that the GS1 Licence allows better access for locally produced goods to be shelved in local retailers, creating ease implementation of a national campaign on “Buy Local and Grow Namibia” with a potential impact of improved domestic trade. 

“This means that producers can now obtain a Namibian barcode with its own unique number configuration, which will inevitably also improve access of such products to the market as well as ensuring easier traceability and standards for our products,” said Iipumbu. 

The trade minister also urged Namibian businesses to make meaningful use of the GS1 Namibia Centre to ensure the effort made to have the centre established is optimally utilised. 

“Market access and regulation comprises value chains which through the instrument put in place would also allow us to identify barriers pertaining to locally produced goods and enable us to design programmes towards rectifying them timely and smoothen the value chain as the needs evolve,” Iipumbu stated. 

Also at the barcode launch, the deputy trade minister, Verna Sinimbo thanked 242 local businesses that signed the call to support the establishment of a GS1 Barcode Centre in Namibia. 

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