What new initiatives is the Republic of Namibia’s Ministry of Trade and Industry involved in?
GEINGOB: We have begun to redefine the type of domestic investors and foreign investors that we are looking for. We have also taken into consideration the complaints coming from Namibia’s citizens. This is significant because we need our citizens to be committed to what we are implementing. Our laws and government acts are dated. This is important to understand because we believe in having efficient governance. Once your government is strong then everything else will follow. In my opinion, it is fundamental to Africa as a whole to have its governance architecture right. Democracy and the freedoms that it brings are good for the problems that we face. When you implement macroeconomic fundamentals based on democracy you tend to have lower inflation rates and deficits. We are meeting all of these requirements. However, there are social economic problems in Namibia. We experience high unemployment rates and poverty levels. It is important that we address these issues because democracy may bring peace but it does not always feed your people. We are in what we call the second phase of our struggle. The first phase was solely political. Now we are in the phase where we must deal with the economic emancipation of empowering young Namibians. Black Namibians tend to be left out of the economic mix. As a result, there tends to be some resentment towards the white population. It is imperative that, regardless of race, the citizens of Namibia must come together in harmony. They must reconcile their differences and move together as one within the country. Namibia is large enough to accommodate all of its citizens.
How have the investment inflows into Namibia changed in recent years? Where do you see this going in the future?
GEINGOB: Unfortunately, investment inflows into Namibia have changed in recent years. We believed that if you provided the necessary macroeconomic fundamentals and stable governance that we would attract certain investors. However, this has not been the case. Our investment inflows in recent years have come from investors exclusively looking for resources. They have mainly been drawn to our oil and uranium. As a result, we have had large investors come to Namibia. For example, the Russian president, Chinese president, and Indian prime minister will all be visiting our country soon. Conversely, it must be noted that we are attracting these countries, not because of our improvements in governance, but because of our natural resources.
What are you doing to ensure that the benefits drawn from Namibia’s resources stay within the country?
GEINGOB: Unfortunately, Namibia is not in the best position when it comes to trading our resources. Our raw materials are going out as they are, value is added to it, and then they are sent back to us. As a result, we understand that we must industrialize. We have started our industrialization with the service industry. We have constructed our own harbor. This is significant because landed locked countries like Zambia and Botswana can now be linked to us. Furthermore, Angola is now using our harbor for their imports and exports. Also, tourism is unique for Namibia. We have many facilities that can cater towards tourism. In the end, we must have value added to our resources. We have to be able to successfully transfer technology, which will hopefully create jobs. At the moment, value for our resources is added somewhere else. Therefore, our unemployment levels are high. It is important that we change this dynamic.
What is the potential for Namibia to become a logistics hub for countries such as Zambia, Botswana, and Angola?
GEINGOB: We have been working with Dubai to help us with the further development of our port. We want to deepen our harbor so it can accommodate larger ships. This must be done first before we can become a real hub for imports and exports.
Recently, the CEO from the Namibian Manufacturers Association stated that the SADC free trade agreements in the free zone area have not been upheld. What is being done to ensure that the countries that have supported these free trade agreements are living up to their commitments?
GEINGOB: SADC (South African Development Community) is a group of countries that came together because Africa is divided into RECs (Regional Economic Commissions). SADC is a commission where we try to harmonize our practices. Most of the countries within SADC are democratic. There are only 2 countries in SADC that are not democratic. Therefore, the agreements are upheld. In fact, they are doing very well. We now have a free trade area. The only problems that we are facing are directly related to crime resulting from drug trafficking in the free zone. We want to facilitate free movement of people and goods but we are worried about crime increasing in the free zone. However, we are definitely making progress.
I believe that Namibia will do very well over the next couple of years. We have developed strong macroeconomic fundamentals that will help facilitate the growth of our economy. We have also been partnering with the private sector. As a result, the interface between the government and private sector has become stronger.
What impact will NEEEF (New Equitable Economic Empowerment Framework) have on making foreign investment more sustainable?
GEINGOB: Any foreign investment results in a win-win situation. However, it is important that these investments benefit indigenous Namibians. Therefore, we must see that there is an empowerment to better sustain foreign investments. We want to alleviate the concerns of real Namibians and eliminate any injustices that they are facing.
What is your overall economic outlook for Namibia for 2012-2013?
GEINGOB: I believe that Namibia will do very well over the next couple of years. We have developed strong macroeconomic fundamentals that will help facilitate the growth of our economy. We have also been partnering with the private sector. As a result, the interface between the government and private sector has become stronger. More importantly, there has been an increase of social responsibility throughout the private sector. Many business people understand that the days of just making money are in the past. They want to help develop the country and increase the livelihood of its citizens. Furthermore, we want democracy to prevail in Namibia. In the end, I can see that Namibia will have a wonderful future.