Remarks by His Excellency Dr. Hage G. Geingob, President of the Republic of Namibia at Business lunch with members of the US Chamber of Commerce Washington D.C. United States of America April 25, 2016
Director of Ceremonies; Distinguished guests; Ladies and gentlemen;
I would like to congratulate the US Chamber of Commerce on its recent launch of the U.S. – Africa Business Center, which I believe will play a pivotal role in directing business development towards Africa. It is time for US Business to have a footprint in Sub- Saharan Africa and this is the opportune time to kick start this process.
I bring greetings from Africa. It is an Africa which has risen and is on the march towards a better future. A few decades ago, it was unheard of that African countries would be mentioned amongst the fastest growing economies in the world. Today, Africa is poised to becoming the fasted growing region on our planet. Moreover, recent report in Business Insider notes that between 2014 up to 2016 6 of the 13 will be from from Africa.
The “New Africa” has moved on from the days of Coup d’états. There are no more One Party States. We as Africans, as the African Union (AU), Southern African Development Community (SADC), Economic Community of Western African States (ECOWAS) amongst others, have ostracized those who come to office through unlawful ways. This is a case of Africa managing its own affairs and letting the world know that we are a continent keen to break away from past legacies and move towards an era of peace, stability and democratic rule. This is the New Africa of Electoral democracy but we have now to bring economic democracy to our people.
Turning specifically to Namibia, I would like to inform you that our governance architecture is solid, characterized by a fully-fledged democracy based on a constitution which is internationally acclaimed. In terms of effective governance, our track-record speaks volumes: among others, rated number fifth overall as the best governed country on the African continent by the Mo Ibrahim Index of African Governance; rated at number four in Africa as a “clean country” in terms of corruption by Transparency
International; and ranked as a country with the “freest press in Africa” by the Reporters without Borders for several consecutive years.
Similarly, our macroeconomic architecture is admirable, underpinned by financial stability evident in a world class banking system (a sector ranked number 2 in Africa by the World Economic Forum), and well-regulated through a prudent monetary policy for the past 24 years. Both Fitch and Moody’s, which are globally recognized rating agencies, have consistently accorded Namibia investment grade ratings, indicating that foreign investors have confidence in Namibian economy. Clearly at the level of governance Namibia by all local and international standards has been doing quite well, as a maturing, stable, peaceful and democratic society. One of the key hallmarks of Namibia ́s democratic maturity is the successful succession of leadership which the country witnessed for the second time last year when I was sworn in as the third President of Namibia on March 21. As you are all aware, stability of leadership is key to any future prospects of prosperity.
As I have already mentioned, we have in place good Governance and Macro- Economic fundamentals. However, there are still social deficits that are prevalent in our economy and I am required to address these issues, which include income distribution including access to land, which are two of the thorny issues of our time. Secondly, despite significantly reducing poverty since independence, there are still pockets of poverty in some places of Namibia that we would like to eradicate by the year 2025. All these issues are priority items on my agenda and the people demand results.
It is for this reason that I have declared all-out war on poverty and concomitant inequality. My focal point is to address inequality, poverty and hunger and that involves exploring a range of choices of how to go about tackling this issue. There cannot be just one approach. There need to be a myriad of options. Details of how we intend to eradicate poverty and creating wealth are outlined in the Harambee Prosperity Plan that I
launched on the 5th of April at me State of the Nation Address. In brief this Plan, which will be implemented over the next 4 years is constructed around 5 pillars and a a number of specific outcomes. The five pillars are: Effective Governance and Service Delivery; Economic Advancement; Social Progression, Infrastructural Development and International Relations and Cooperation.
Specific outcomes that we would like to see following the successful implementation of the Harambee Plan include the following:
Advancement; Social Infrastructure and International
• That Namibia, becomes the most transparent and accountable nation on the African Continent;
• That the Namibian Economy becomes the most competitive economy on the African continent, through streamlining of business procedures, financing solutions and availability of vocational education and other specialized skills;
• That there will be no hunger poverty in Namibia, that access to serviced land, housing and sanitation have improved significantly; and that there will be a dramatic decline in infant and maternal mortality; and
• That we will have competitive infrastructure, including secure and affordable energy and water; an expanded and modern port and roads; and broad band internet access to 80 percent of the population and 100 percent to Government agencies to facilitate e- governance.
Given the increasing interconnectivity of our global economy, any growth we desire cannot be obtained in isolation. From a regional perspective, due to the small size of our population, Namibia has a limited domestic market. To growth faster we, therefore, continuously need to expand market access for our products and service. In this regard, regional economic integration remains a key strategy in our development approach.
Firstly, we are committed to economic integration of the entire African continent through regional economic blocs such as SACU and SADC to which Namibia are members. That is why we have signed the tripartite agreement that aims at promoting free trade between COMESA, EAC and SADC. Through this agreement Namibia effectively has access to a market of over 500 million people.
Secondly, we are aware of some of the potential negative implications that may come with opening up ones market too quickly and, therefore, we will continue to approach regional economic integration and trade liberalization in a responsible manner. It is for this reason that we have put in place an industrial policy, and our industrialization strategy Growth at Home, that aims to develop Namibian industries to meaningfully participate in economic integration.
From an international perspective, we are a country that has always been open to Foreign Direct Investment. Upon Independence, the Government of Namibia took a decision to pursue FDI through the Foreign Investment Act. The idea was to attract labour intensive industries to come to Namibia to create jobs for our people. A number of incentives were used us sweeteners. These include the Export Processing Zone, which provided tax exemptions and other favourable incentives.
We also need to look at ways of increasing the role that Namibians play in the economy without hindering FDI. The fact is that for along time, investors in Namibia have operated without any obligations to increase Namibian participation in their companies. This has to change. This is why the process of reviewing the Foreign Investment Act of 1990 began several years ago so that a new law can be established in which there is a clear definition of what an investor is. There should also be an outline of strategic minerals which no foreigner will be able to own 100%. This
law will also define and outline business activities that should only be carried out by Namibians such as certain forms of retail, hair salons, trading and transport. Investors should participate in worthy projects. We also encourage Joint Venture Partnerships since the Government and Namibians do not have money for speculation and exploration. The aim therefore is to create a conducive environment in which Namibians have a larger stake and a greater role to play together with foreign investors. We want to create win-win partnerships.
I am aware that the US Chamber of Commerce is major supporter of AGOA as well as EXIM Bank re-authorization. As Namibia, we are committed to the AGOA process and since I have declared 2016 as the year of implementation in Namibia, I would like to inform you that we will finalize the AGOA implementation strategy this year.
I also ask that the Chamber continue its support to Namibia’s quest for market access for our beef and meat products into the US markets. Although there are some US industries objecting to this move, Namibia beef imports would only amount to 0.05% of domestic production and 0.5% of imports in the United States.
In conclusion I would like to say that I am here in the United States to testify that, Africa has risen, Africa is on the march, Africa’s time is now. We are committed to joining with business partners in the United States of America to create business linkages that will open up a new era in US-Africa business relations.
I thank you.