By Frederick Philander
Namibian exports to Malaysia have over the past three years grown by leaps and bounds thanks to the continuous and growing demand for products and local export initiatives to East Asia.
So said the Namibian High Commissioner, Neville Gertze, during an interview in his office on the fifteenth floor of one of the many high-rise buildings in Kuala Lumpur last week.
“I am happy to report that Namibian trade with Malaysia has grown by over 300% in recent times and the indicators are that this amount will further grow especially in the export of minerals, fish products and fertilizer for agricultural purposes to this country,” said Gertze, who has been Namibian High Commissioner to Malaysia for close to four years.
According to Gertze, relations between Namibia and Malaysia are excellent and are improving by the day.
“My function here as High Commissioner is primarily to keep all bilateral agreements and trade relations between our two countries alive in any way possible, something I am passionate about. It is very important that we continue to strengthen the existing trade and economic ties between our two countries,” Gertze, a former teacher from Rehoboth, said.
Gertze cited the UNTAG force that assisted Namibia in successfully holding its first democratic elections with the coming of independence and the setting up of the Ramatex textile factory as some of the positive contributions by Malaysia to Namibia’s development.
“Malaysia is continuously extending its relations and influence into the world. Presently, Africa is its focus point, something Namibia has grabbed with both hands through a number of agreements we have signed with the country such as the double-tax avoidance agreement, an investment protection agreement and a development cooperation agreement. These agreements have benefited Namibia in various positive ways,” he said with reference to the setting up of the Bank of Namibia, the 300 former PLAN-fighters that have been trained in Malaysia for jobs in the local tourism industry and the now defunct Development Brigade.
He lauded Malaysia’s role as the biggest investor in the local manufacturing industry.
“With an investment of N$120 million through Ramatex, the textile industry remains Malaysia’s biggest investment and interest in Namibia. However, more investment is needed. Unfortunately, the groundwork for such investment possibilities in Namibia presently do not meet the expectations of Malaysian investors. For instance, Malaysians are interested in support industries in the furniture manufacturing sector, something still lacking in our country,” Gertze said.
“Malaysia has found a steadfast and trustworthy partner in Namibia for exports to other countries in Southern Africa. Indications are that Malaysia would be interested and willing to put up more manufacturing plants in Namibia for export production to other countries,” he said.
The tax-free EPZ system in Namibia is becoming more attractive to Malaysian businesses.
“There is a lot of interest in the EPZ system by way of inquiries at our High Commission. All of a sudden, Walvis Bay is featuring much stronger over here, all indications that there is interest to open up businesses in Namibia. Malaysians already have exploration licences in Namibia for diamond and copper mining,” he said.
Gertze added that a memorandum of understanding in education between the two countries is in the process of being finalized.
“It makes a lot of sense taking into account that Malaysia has financed and assisted more than 100 Namibian university students to train and complete their studies in this country. This memorandum of understanding, to be completed later this year, caters for educational exchange programmes between our two countries with regard to teachers and lecturers at the respective educational institutions in both countries,” the High Commissioner asserted.
“Often people misunderstand my role here in Malaysia as being here to beg. No, we are here to develop smart partnerships between our two countries because both have a lot to offer the other in various spheres. There exists a lot of willingness in Malaysia to assist, support and help Namibia,” said Gertze, the vice-dean of the 15-African country grouping in Malaysia.