|The Courier N° 127 May - June 1991- Dossier 'New' ACP Export Products - Country Reports Cape Verde - Namibia (EC Courier, 1991, 104 p.)|
|Namibia: Meeting challenge of nationhood|
Mr Hage Geingob, the Prime Minister of Namibia was in Brussels in December to sign the Lomonvention on behalf of his country. Following the signing ceremony, he spoke at a press conference about the importance of Namibias accession to the Convention and about a wide range of other issues.
Mr Geingob began by emphasising how independence had changed the equation for Namibia, with new contacts and opportunities opening up for trade and investment. He said that Namibia was inviting the private sector to come and invest in the country. In this regard, the most important factor was stability, and he stressed that Namibia was a good risk .
The Prime Minister was quizzed about the outcome of the negotiations which had resulted in Namibia becoming the 69th member of the ACP group. On meeting the quota for beef which had been agreed (10 500 tonnes of Namibian beef may be exported to the Community annually) he said that Namibian farmers had been told they must respond. He also underlined the need to expand this opportunity for export beyond the commercial operations, to existing communal farmers. The latters basic problems, he said, were in the areas of training and access to loans. On the subject of South Africas continuing occupation of Walvis Bay, Mr Geingob intimated that negotiations had already begun at Foreign Minister level. He emphasised his Governments position, reflected in UN Resolution no 432, that Walvis Bay is a part of Namibia and that it must be reintegrated. Although Namibia had not yet brought an action before the ICJ on this issue, this option could riot be ruled out in the future. Asked about when Namibia would raise its moratorium on fishing by foreign vessels in its waters, Mr Geingob said that new, arrangements would soon be proposed. Until a proper agreement was reached, however, ships should stay away. He also noted the conclusions of some studies that fishing was likely to surpass mining as the most important economic activity in Namibia.
After the press conference, Mr Geingob granted an exclusive interview to the COURIER, which is published below:
· Prime Minister, now that Namibia has signed the Lomonvention and joined the ACP group, what sectors do you think are likely to be the main focus of EC-Namibia cooperation in the future? What are the priority areas for EDF-funding?
- We have already identified four priority areas. Firstly, there is education. This is a big problem because you cannot think of development without education. There are many aspects to it so we will narrow down some areas that we can finance from development assistance. The same is true of the health problem where apartheid legacies are apparent. Then we have housing - low income housing provision is very important - and agriculture, to provide food for our people. Those are the four basic areas that the funding could be channelled through.
· There seems to a strong current flowing throughout the world in favour of free market economic policies and against state intervention. What role do you envisage for the state in the Namibian economy?
- We have stated in our Constitution that there will be a mixed economy which in a way, also foresees some kind of involvement from the state in certain areas. If you are dealing with an economy like Namibias, which is so lopsided in favour of one sector and if the free market economy fails to correct that, then somebody has to be involved in saying you must do something here. So there will be a requirement for state intervention in certain areas. But we are at the same time, completely agreeable to a free market economy. That is why we have established our business people as partners in this process. We have told them, you are the creators of wealth and the government is the distributor. So, therefore, we are working in partnership.
· Although the economic statistics for Namibia suggest an overall position which is quite encouraging, compared with other parts of Africa, the distribution of income is very uneven. How do you plan to set about narrowing the gap?
- That is the biggest problem we face. We have to create the wealth in order to tackle it. We must bring in capital to Namibia, to create small industries and to revamp the building and manufacturing sectors, to start with, so as to provide jobs. The idea is that if we can create jobs, we can earn something and that, in itself aids the process of narrowing the gap.
· Namibias economy depends on a high level of both imports and exports. Do you see this as a problem? Are you considering any measures to reduce Namibias trade dependency?
- Yes. As I said, the manufacturing sector must be addressed, [v produce more for the home market. There is also the processing sector we could easily process the charcoal pelts in Namibia and so provide jobs there. The aim is the provision of jobs. And then take beef, for instance. At the moment we have to get our beef from South Africa our own beef which we export and then buy back in processed form. On the agricultural side I think we can feed ourselves, but currently, we are importing nearly all our food from South Africa! So these are the areas we are going to embark on to extend our agriculture.
· Prior to independence major elements of South Africas apartheid system were imposed on Namibia, notably the so-called system of separate development based on the territorial separation of different racial groups and communities. To what extent does this legacy still cause problems today, and what efforts are being made to normalise the situation?
- The fact that the country was carved up with certain areas allocated to this tribe or that tribe, was a very big problem. Now political equality has been created through our basic law that is our Constitution, which states that a Namibian can now live where he wants to, and own property in any part of the country. That is the answer at one level, but it is not the complete answer. We must equally, educate all our people mentally, to free them from the colonial mentality based on operating on separate lines the tribes and so on, so that they can do things for themselves. Recently, I have travelled all over the country, talking to people and asking what it is they want from the Government. In 1991 I am going to present a White Paper to the Parliament dealing with the policy aspects of the problem. This is something which has come from the regions and from the people themselves. As part of the same process we have a delimitation committee which will come up with new boundaries not based on the previous arrangements - for the regions within Namibia.
· Does Namibia intend to remain par! of the Southern Africa Customs Union?
- Its not a question of wanting to, but at the moment, we do not have the option. At a certain moment we will have to consider what the benefits are for use and to assess what we have gained from the arrangement. Then we will consider whether it is worth continuing. If it is the wish of the Namibian people, we will stay if not we will get out. At the moment however, we have no choice.
· We have seen an increased emphasis in development policy in recent years, on strengthening regional cooperation. In the context of Southern Africa, what benefits do you think such an approach can bring to Namibia?
- On the subject of regional cooperation, we are certainly learning from Europe. It is true to say that unity is strength and we must have regional cooperation to revive the African economies. I am very hopeful on that score. For a country which is so young, Namibia is very active at a regional level (SADCC) and I look forward to this continuing.
Interview by S.H.