The tripartite agreement that incorporates Africa’s major trade blocs into a concerted effort to boost the continent’s trade power must be seen as an opportunity for Namibia to grow its economy at a rate that can rapidly reduce unemployment and poverty. However, Prime Minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila warned that this would require bold decisions to improve the country’s competitiveness and innovation capacity in a fast-changing world.
On June 10 this year, Namibia was one of 26 countries that signed the Tripartite Free Trade Area Agreement in Egypt. This coalition of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa), East African Community (EAC) and Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) represents 58 percent of the continent’s Gross Domestic Product (over US$1 trillion) and a population of more than 600 million people. This is a bigger market than either the European Union (EU) or the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta).
Africa is currently described as the least economically integrated region in the world, as measured by intra-regional trade flows. Trade between African countries, as a share of the continent’s total trade has hovered at 10 percent for decades, which is in stark contrast to Europe and Asia where this proportion is close to 60 percent.
“Industrialisation in Namibia will be driven by innovation, with due respect for the sustainability of our environment. The focus will be on the services and manufacturing sectors in areas where Namibia has a clear comparative advantage, namely logistics, tourism, manufacturing, and agriculture,” said Kuugongelwa-Amadhila while speaking at the Namibia Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s (NCCI’s) Annual Gala Dinner last week Friday.
The theme of the event was ‘Agenda 2020: Enhancing Namibia’s Competitiveness through Innovation and Improved Service Delivery’.
“A competitive, diversified and more inclusive economy is essential to improve trade performance, the expansion and sustaining of job creation, and the strengthening of revenue generation. Progress will require more collaborative partnerships across our society.
The next phase of growth is about the dynamism and agility of the private sector and the synergies between the private sector and government,” added Kuugongelwa-Amadhila.
At the same event, the Prime Minister mentioned that a new Investment Promotion Bill is currently being considered to replace the existing Foreign Investment Act 27 of 1990. She said the new Bill would provide a clear and transparent framework for investment in Namibia for both domestic and foreign investment. “I am convinced that the Bill, together with other legal instruments, will create a conducive and transparent investment regime for all investors. Hence, I seek the full support from the Namibian private sector,” concluded Kuugongelwa-Amadhila.
Earlier on Friday, during the NCCI’s Annual General Meeting, Minister of Industrialisation, Trade and Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) Development, Immanuel Ngatjizeko, said: “Countries create wealth not by exporting raw materials and importing finished products, but by doing the exact opposite… We have been given a clear mandate to drive the transformation of our economy from its dependency on the export of raw minerals into a manufacturing driven economy.”
The minister also called on the private sector to play a pivotal role in the implementation of the industrialisation agenda by investing in value-adding activities, thereby creating the much-needed employment opportunities and making a serious dent into unemployment, poverty and income inequality.
“For us to make speedy progress on this mission, we need to focus our attention on skills development and innovation,” he said.