Namibia, S.A. Sign Key Accord

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By Chrispin Inambao WINDHOEK A historic investors’ conference to seek funding for 48 projects identified for financing is planned for next year following high-level talks yesterday between presidents Hifikepunye Pohamba and Thabo Mbeki in Windhoek. Pohamba reaffirmed Namibia’s commitment to co-operate with South Africa towards the promotion of investment in the various sectors of energy, tourism, mining, agriculture, fisheries, manufacturing and infrastructure development. In the area of infrastructure development, considering South Africa will be hosting the 2010 FIFA World Cup, Namibia feels obliged to ensure the historic soccer event is a success in light of its global ramifications and economic benefits for the region. Trade and Industry Minister Immanuel Ngatjizeko signed a bilateral economic co-operation agreement with his South African counterpart Mandisi Mpahlwa. The agreement entails co-operation in the fields of energy, mining, transport, agro-processing and tourism. It also makes leeway for South Africa to assist Namibia with training and industrial property rights and to build up the industries that lag far behind those of its southern neighbour. Pohamba felt the various sectors identified in the agreement “have the potential to contribute to economic growth, employment creation and poverty alleviation”. “In addition, this co-operation will help to address the supply-side constraints currently experienced by Namibian industries in taking advantage of opportunities that regional integration is creating,” stated the Namibian Head of State during the talks with Mbeki. As South Africa remains Namibia’s largest trading partner in terms of the volume and value of trade, Pohamba noted: “It is for this reason that we attach great importance to these bilateral economic co-operation meetings, which provide us with opportunities to strengthen our bilateral co-operation for the mutual benefit of our two countries and peoples. “We are also happy that a new agreement has been signed whereby the South African Bureau of Standards will continue to render the necessary services in the areas of quality and standards assurance in Namibia.” Under the agreement, he added, SABS will facilitate capacity building and skills transfer to the new Namibian standards agency. “South Africa has made our region and the African continent proud by successfully bidding for the hosting of the FIFA Soccer World Cup in 2010. I wish to assure you of Namibia’s support in order to make the hosting of the World Cup a resounding success for South Africa, the region and the continent,” stated Pohamba. Yesterday’s meeting took place at a very crucial time when the SADC region is searching for the best possible ways to achieve deeper integration. Namibia welcomes progress made through the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) seeking to integrate the region’s economies into the global economy and specifically the conclusion of free trade agreements with South American countries under MERCOSUR and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA). It also welcomes other measures under way to create trade frameworks with other economies such as China, India, the USA as well as several countries in Africa. The President was also of the view that there is a need to move speedily to finalise the Reciprocal Investment Protection and Promotion Agreement and towards this end, relevant local institutions are in the process of finalising and signing the agreement. The two countries’ ministries of trade and industry have been mandated to sign and process the agreement before the hosting of the envisaged investors’ conference. In the area of energy and power generation, Namibia is concerned about the delays in the implementation of measures aimed at the exploitation of the Kudu gas fields. “Despite the imminent power supply crisis in the region, the promoters and investors have not been able to reach a common position on how to proceed,” he complained. And apart from the Sixth Presidential Economic Bilateral Meeting held yesterday, an Extra-Ordinary SADC Summit was held in South Africa last month where delegates discussed strategies to accelerate regional integration. One of the challenges facing the two countries is the narrowing of the trade imbalance by increasing the amount of goods being exported to South Africa from Namibia. Several members of the Namibian and South African cabinets witnessed the signing ceremony. Mbeki and his delegation left Namibia yesterday after the whirlwind visit.