The Spanish Ambassador to Namibia, María del Carmen Díez Orejas.
New Era sat down with the Spanish Ambassador to Namibia, María del Carmen Díez Orejas, on the diplomatic relationship between Namibia and Spain as well as on the trade relationships between the two countries.
New Era (NE): How do you describe your stay in Namibia and what would you say has been the main highlight of your stay as the Ambassador of Spain in Namibia?
Ambassador María del Carmen Díez Orejas (MDO): “I arrived in Namibia in December 2011, which means that I have been here for nearly two years. I would say that these months have been extremely fruitful professionally and very gratifying personally. Being Ambassador of Spain in Namibia has been a challenging and, at the same time, inspiring experience. Concerning the highlights, it is very difficult to choose one. There have been many special moments, like the day I presented the credentials given to me by His Majesty the King of Spain to the President of the Republic of Namibia, H.E. Hifikepunye Pohamba. I would also like to mention some field visits to very interesting projects such as the ‘Queen Sofia of Spain’ Resettlement, the ground-breaking ceremony of a maternity ward at the Opuwo Hospital, the opening of several fish shops of the Namibian Fish Consumption Promotion Trust and many others.”
NE: How would you describe the relations between Spain and Namibia?
MDO: “I think we are real partners. This partnership dates back to the days before independence. I am very proud to say that the first ever Peace-keeping Mission in which Spain participated was here, in Namibia, through UNTAG. Many years later, our relations have strengthened in every possible field [from] political, economic and commercial to development cooperation. [The year] 2013 has been an excellent year for our bilateral relations. Several high-ranked officials have visited Spain, like Minister [of Foreign Affairs] Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah and Minister [of Fisheries and Marine Resources] Bernard Esau.”
NE: What is the volume of trade between Namibia and Spain? What products does your country import from Namibia and what products is Namibia importing from Spain?
MDO: “Spain and Namibia are good trade partners. In 2012, Spain has imported a total value of 205 million Euros, mainly fishing products and above all, hake. Namibia, on the other hand, imports mostly fishing boats and mechanical machinery. According to these figures we are one of Namibia´s best clients.”
NE: Have the levels of investment volumes between Namibia and Spain improved for the time you have been here? And what has been the largest Spanish investment in Namibia since independence?
MDO: “Traditionally, 95 percent of the Spanish Foreign Direct Investment into Namibia was invested in the fishing industry. However, in recent years there has been a diversification in the Spanish investments and an increase in the number of Spanish companies bidding in different tenders. As a result there is a more frequent exchange of commercial missions and more Spanish companies have shown interest in the country. [Spanish oil and gas company] Repsol has just opened an office in Windhoek and is going to begin drilling [its first offshore well for oil and gas exploration in the Walvis Basin in February] next year. It is indeed a very important investment but I would not dare to say that it is the largest. As Ambassador of Spain to Namibia I will continue encouraging Spanish companies to invest here because I believe that Spaniards and Namibians working together can contribute to the economic growth of both our countries.”
NE: Several bilateral agreements have been signed between Namibia and Spain, and sometimes concerns are raised with regard to the pace of implementation, not only with Spain but with other countries as well. Are you satisfied with the pace of implementation of agreements and other developmental projects between the two countries?
MDO: “There are indeed several bilateral agreements between our countries. As an example I will mention those that have been signed in the last two years: A Memorandum of Understanding in the field of Political Consultations and a Development Partnership Framework Agreement which identifies priority areas for action. The pace of implementation of both agreements has been very satisfactory up to now.”
NE: Are there Namibians who are currently studying or being trained in Spain with the assistance of your government? if yes, in what fields?
MDO: “Training and capacity building, not only in Spain but also in Namibia, are two important objectives of all our joint projects. In the last years, around 30 Namibians did their graduate and postgraduate studies in Spain supported by the Spanish Agency of International Development Cooperation (AECID) scholarships, mainly in the fields of Statistics, Psychology, Marine Biology, Engineering and Business Administration. In Namibia, most of the training takes place in the fishing sector (aquaculture, oceanographic research and marine information, fish preparation, quality control systems, marketing), but also in business management for small and medium enterprises and in water and sanitation.”
NE: What other projects is your government involved with in Namibia and how do these projects benefit the ordinary people of Namibia?
MDO: “Our Partnership Agreement that I mentioned before, establishes ‘Economic Growth for Human Development’ as the priority number one. Therefore, our joint projects are focused on: fisheries, health, gender equality, rural sanitation and rural development and their aim is to promote economic and social cohesion. There are many activities currently being implemented in these sectors: like the construction of a maternity ward at the regional hospital in Opuwo, together with the training and purchasing of the necessary equipment; fish shops and trucks for the Namibia Fish Consumption Promotion Trust; Construction of a new hatchery for aquaculture; water and sanitation infrastructures. I have had the opportunity to visit some of these projects and the warming welcome of the beneficiaries has been a very gratifying experience. Part of our cooperation programmes are implemented bilaterally, through AECID and the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, others via United Nations agencies, other multilateral agencies or NGOs. To give you an idea, since 2005 and through all these channels Spain has allocated 72 million Euros to different projects. In fact, during this very month of November, the AECID is celebrating its 25th anniversary. During these years, the AECID has worked relentlessly to fight poverty and to promote sustainable development. As part of this commitment, the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation opened its offices in Windhoek in 1990.”
NE: Your Excellency, do you have any other crucial information that you would like to share with our readers on the relations between the two countries?
MDO: “It is not something ‘crucial’ but I would like to add something very personal. I visited this country for the first time in 1992, soon after independence. Since then, I have always followed with big interest all its progress and, indeed big progress has taken place in these 21 years. Congratulations! Coming back so many years later as Ambassador of my country is a real honour and it gives me the opportunity to contribute to the expansion of the relations between our countries. I also want to thank the Namibian authorities and the Namibian people for their support and friendship during this time.”