By Anna Shilongo
Last week Wednesday marked the end of the transitional period of grant funding for broader and newer modalities of the cooperation agreement between Namibia and Finland.
Namibia and Finland have enjoyed a long and warm historical relationship, which started with the work of the Finnish Missionary Society in northern Namibia almost 140 years ago.
Finland also supported Namibia during its independence struggle as well as in its post-independence development goals.
Since 1990 to date, Finland has extended financial assistance of N$412 million to Namibia.
Bilateral relations have also developed smoothly, and projects in the fields of health, water supply, forestry, environment and geology, local governance support, capacity building, culture, human rights, gender equality, democracy and good governance have been successfully concluded.
Speaking at the occasion, the Director General of the National Planning Commission (NPC) Helmut Angula said the phasing out of traditional grant assistance to Namibia should not mean a reduction in cooperation between the two governments, but rather a change in modalities of partnership and collaboration.
“The long history to our relations and particularly the significant and material support Finland extended to Namibia during our struggle for independence has created a strong basis for cooperation between our two countries, but it should not end here, let us continue working together,” said Angula.
He said Government values the cooperation both in terms of the extensive development and technical resources and the business relations enjoyed by the duo.
“To that end, our Government appreciates the generous assistance from Finland that has facilitated significant developmental progress in transforming our policy framework and plans into action,” he said.
Namibia is also grateful for the friendly relationship between the two countries, which are based on strengthened commercial and economic relations. While the country welcomes the change in cooperation between the two countries from grant based cooperation to broader cooperation, which includes new modalities such as institutional collaboration, trade, investments and concessional credits, Angula appealed for continued support towards addressing poverty and other socio-economic challenges in Namibia.
“We appreciate the new instruments of cooperation, in particular the fund for local cooperation, through which Finland cooperates with more than 30 Namibian NGOs and public sector institutions. We also appreciate the progress made in the area of tourism,” said the DG.
Other priority areas of future cooperation that could be explored by the two governments, Angula said, include mining technology, agriculture, industry finance, information, communication technology and logistics.
The Under-Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland, Marjatta Rasi, said a lot of progress has taken place in diversifying cooperation between the two countries.
“The next step and way ahead will be the implementation of the MOU for concessional credit projects going on and in the pipeline, particularly in the health and energy sectors.”
She said they are in the process of the strengthening of commercial relations.
The overall volume of trade between Finland and Namibia is also increasing.
Thus Rasi said Finland welcomes Namibia’s efforts in bringing forward trade and foreign investment, but there are still challenges that need to be addressed.
On the other hand, she said, Finnish markets are rather far away which makes it more difficult for the Namibian companies to find business partners in Finland.
Finland and Namibia had mutually agreed on an overall framework, the transition strategy, in order to develop their relations when Finland’s development cooperation will focus on poverty alleviation in least developed countries.
“Which is why we are gathered here to review how Finland and Namibia have succeeded in diversifying their cooperation,” she said.
The two countries are currently holding bilateral consultations.