By Kae Matundu-Tjiparuro
Nigeria is striving towards more engagement in concrete economic projects between her people and Namibia. This entails, among others, increased direct trade links between the two brotherly countries especially in fish, salt and other agricultural products, as well as increased exchange of knowledge in animal husbandry.
To give impetus to this the Nigerian High Commissioner to Namibia thinks it is imperative for the two countries to convene urgently the 3rd session of the Namibia-Nigeria Joint Commission that would fashion out bankable projects to actualize economic dreams to their mutual benefit.
The High Commissioner, Prince Adegboyega Christopher Ariyo, is determined to push this agenda during his ambassadorial tenure in Namibia. This is part of concrete economic projects that the High Commissioner wishes to promote that also includes establishment of an oil refinery and supply of petroleum products.
Mr Ariyo shared his vision of an intense bilateral economic cooperation with Namibia on the eve of the 47th independence anniversary of this African economic giant. He wants to see more engagement between the two countries on the economic front, especially in view of the fact that hitherto this bilateral economic engagement has not been as intense as it could be.
“The way the colonialists ran Africa made us to look towards them,” he explains part of the reason why trading between Namibia and Nigeria, and between African countries in general, has not been what it ought to be.
Mr Ariyo cites distance and lack of infrastructure like roads, rail links and shipping between African countries that always have to make use of intermediaries to get goods to one another, as having been one problem in enhancing trade between Namibia and Nigeria, for example.
Namibian fish, he points out, has to reach Nigeria through extra-African countries and this, according to him, is unacceptable. “This is double jeopardy. The transportation from here to extra-Africa countries and from there to Nigeria means the price of Namibian fish in Nigeria will be exorbitant.”
He thus thinks the first step is promoting intra-African trade as without it, Africa cannot cater for itself and provide jobs for its teeming population of educated and skilled people.
“If we decide to have an autarky, Africa can survive without the rest of the world.”
The unfair and humiliating trade relationship with Africa which is affecting our dignity could force a thought about this economic system. He says Africa with 60% of the world’s resources and 17% of human manpower has what she needs to sustain even the world civilization but this cannot happen given the current state of world economic order.
“I see the structure of the economy of Namibia cocooned in the main economy of Southern Africa.” He stresses the need for new players in the economy, adding that the Abuja Treaty of 1991 when fully implemented would remove all trade roadblocks hindering the promotion of intra-Africa trade. Now is the time to start laying a solid foundation.
The two countries are in the process of partially addressing the problem of linkage with the latest move to establish an air link between Windhoek and Lagos. An agreement was signed in this regard on August 13 this year. This, High Commissioner Ariyo says, would reduce the cost of doing business between the two countries.
He also aims at seeing mutually beneficial joint ventures between Namibians and Nigerians, especially in the informal sector.
Human resource development is another area in which he thinks the two countries can intensify cooperation, revealing Nigeria’s intention to avail science and mathematics teachers, engineers and university and polytechnic professors.
Furthermore, the two countries can also share experiences in solid minerals and raw materials exploitation as well as the use thereof. However, Mr Ariyo hastens to add that Africa has a duty to guard against the overexploitation of her resources and to preserve it for her own industrial revolution 20 years or so from now.
According to the 2006 census figures Nigeria has a population of 142 million. It has a Gross Domestic Product of US$108 billion, and that represents only the formal sector while the informal sector could be twice as much.
In addition, Nigeria has tremendous education capacity with over 50 universities and an equal number of polytechnics and colleges of higher education and research institutions. These speak volumes of an African giant.
Its diplomatic presence on the Continent has been felt on many occasions, e.g. her constructive engagement in the Lagos Plan of Action, the New Economic Partnership for African Development (NEPAD) in which the former President Chief Olusegun Obasanjo played a critical role with other notable African leaders such as Presidents Abdoulae Wade of Senegal, Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, Abdelaziz Bouteflika of Algeria and Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak.
The Lagos Plan of Action (a Plan for the Economic Development of Africa, 1980-2000) formalised by the Shagari administration, was an Organisation of African Unity-backed Plan to increase Africa’s self-sufficiency.
It was drafted in Lagos, Nigeria in April 1980, during a conference attended by African leaders. The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) under Nigeria’s Prof. Adebayo Adedeji played a significant role in this regard.
Regionally, the country has been involved in peace-keeping efforts in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast and Sudan. However, its involvement in international affairs has not been confined to West Africa alone and neither has it been a new preoccupation.
As a member of the Frontline States, it played a positive and constructive role in dismantling foreign occupation in Southern African countries like Angola, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, South Africa and Namibia as Chairman of the UN Anti-Apartheid Committee and Special Committee on Namibia.
High Commissioner Ariyo emphasises that Nigeria’s role in the liberation struggle in Southern Africa was to restore the dignity of the black man. Thus, Nigeria’s bilateral relations with Namibia dates back to the days of the liberation struggle when Nigeria supported Namibia diplomatically, materially, financially and morally.
Among others, Namibian children attended schools in Nigeria and Namibian cadets received military training in various Nigerian military schools.
Today, this long-standing relationship is embodied in the Nigeria-Namibia Friendship Association (NINAFA) which was launched on September 12, 2007 in Windhoek by the High Commissioner.
Prince Ariyo is committed to taking this Association to greater heights as a platform for “the perpetual mutual beneficial critical engagement” of Namibian and Nigerian people. It would entail, among others, cultural exchanges and business ventures between the peoples of the two countries.
He envisages a similar branch in Nigeria and thinks children exchange should particularly be encouraged to perpetuate NINAFA.
Nigeria gained independence from Britain on October 1, 1960 after the Lancaster House Agreement in London. Ambassador Ariyo paid tribute to the fathers of Nigerian Independence like Dr Nnamid Azikiwe (Zik of Africa), Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa and Chief Obafemi Awolowo of blessed memory to mention a few.
The High Commissioner traced the chequered history of Nigeria under various military and civilian administrations until the country returned to civilian rule on May 29, 1999 following National Assembly and Presidential elections in which Chief Olusegun Obasanjo was sworn in as President.
In the first civilian-run presidential elections since the end of military rule, Obasanjo was re-elected for a second term.
In April 2007 His Excellency Governor Umaru Musa Yar’Adua of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party emerged winner of the Presidential elections. He was sworn in as President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on May 29, 2007.
The High Commissioner is grateful that President Hifikepunye Pohamba personally showed solidarity with Nigeria by the presence of his highly valued delegation at the occasion. After a long period of military interregnum, Nigeria is now on the canvass of solid democracy based on justice, fairness and the rule of law to ensure continued peace and stability.