By Wezi Tjaronda WINDHOEK A team of 16 officials from the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) has arrived in Namibia to appraise the rationale and viability of the tourism sector and other related issues. Some issues such as monitoring and evaluation and financial management have already been appraised after the Due Diligence exercise on proposed investments began early this year, a process that will lead to the signing of the Compact or agreement between Namibia and the USA on the MCA Namibia in September this year. If everything goes accordingly, funds may be disbursed early 2008. Namibia became eligible for MCC funding in November 2005 as one of the lower-to-middle-income countries together with El Salvador and Cape Verde. The investments, which total around US$100-million are spread over a number of key areas, namely investment in national parks aimed at unlocking private sector tourism development opportunities in conjunction with local communities living around the national parks, and upscaling Namibia’s marketing efforts in emerging markets including USA, Canada and Europe. Forming part of the package is the removal of barriers to entry in the tourism sector through incentive-based training and accessing tourism-tailored financing schemes. Welcoming the team that arrived to appraise tourism, land and property rights issues, monitoring and evaluation, economic and environmental and social assessments, National Planning Commission Director-General Helmut Angula said there was emphasis on the tourism sector because it is core to Namibia’s development strategy. “The tourism sector is key to the development strategy of Namibia optimizing the use of fantastic and diversified natural resource bases,” said Angula yesterday. He said Namibia had earned herself a worldwide reputation for its innovative approaches of linking conservation to poverty-alleviation through its communal area conservancy programmes and its pro-poor tourism initiatives. Although tourism is key to development, Angula said it is exciting to see further economic opportunities unlocked by the MCC investment into livestock and indigenous products. Angula said all the government could do was to set the scene, provide basic infrastructure management of wildlife and indigenous products, mobilize communities and ensure a conducive environment and general business climate, but the driving force behind long-term sustainable development was the private sector. He also urged role players in the Due Diligence exercise to fast-track the preparation or the implementation of the MCA Namibia programme, which includes the preparation of all legal documentation required for the Compact and Disbursement Agreement, without which the funds would not be released. Prerequisite to the implementation phase are the monitoring and evaluation plan and the education and legal components. The government set up a programme proposal for funding in its submission made in September 2006, after which the next process was the appraisal of sub-programme, sectors and component, which include improved delivery and quality of education at secondary and tertiary levels, increased production of large and small stock and mainstream commercial marketing, promotion of private and community-based investment in tourism and natural products, and also rural access roads.