Egypt’s Ambassador to Namibia Mahmoud Fawzy Abou Dounya says Namibia could replicate the best practices from Egypt’s tourism sector, the largest in Africa, which in 2010 generated N$162.5 billion in revenue.
Although Egypt was among the first African states to establish diplomatic ties with independent Namibia, Dounya said there are still areas of cooperation that the two countries are not fully exploring.
“I’m not satisfied with the current level of relationship between the two countries, with the exception of training courses between the two foreign ministries. There are often only congratulatory messages for Christmas and New Year. This is not enough.
“There were treaties that were concluded after Independence, but I discovered that these treaties lapsed and those in existence are not legally binding,” he said yesterday when Namibia and Egypt signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on tourism.
Dounya said he is dissatisfied that the current level of bilateral cooperation between the two countries has been reduced to the annual exchange of diplomatic pleasantries in the form of Christmas and New Year’s messages.
The latest MoU is aimed at strengthening bilateral relations between the two countries, recognising the importance of tourism in economic development. The main areas of cooperation include the exchange of information, tourism promotion and marketing, training, trade and investment.
Dounya explained that Egypt never stopped assisting Namibia and other African countries financially, but said the relationships is “weak and does not match the ambitions of the two countries.” He said it is the two countries’ responsibility to look into exploring all development fields.
Tourism in Namibia is the fastest growing sector and the third most significant contributor to Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Namibia is praised internationally as a global leader in conservation and community empowerment and it thus was felt that Egypt can also learn from Namibia’s sound conservation tourism strategies, which have been widely commended.
“We provide the best practice story through tourism and thus a model worth replicating. This is particularly true, considering the remarkable achievements in our protected areas and sound conservation strategies, as well as the community-based natural resource management programme, which devolves rights for the consumptive and non-consumptive use and management of wildlife and natural resources to the local communities – a practice which is not found in many countries,” Minister of Environment and Tourism Pohamba Shifeta said.
According to Shifeta, Namibia does not only encourage conservation but also the sustainable use of resources, thus there are also things Egypt can learn and replicate. Egypt thrives on cultural tourism, built on the country’s complex history, multicultural population and importance as a regional centre, something the minister of environment and tourism said Namibia can tap into.
Shifeta shared Dounya’s concern that despite all the areas of cooperation with Egypt, dating back to 1990, the tourism sector was not part of it. He said it is time for both countries to make the necessary interventions in the tourism sector and learn from each other in order to attract investors.
Egypt provided Namibia with moral and financial aid, including training of the first battalion during the struggle against the apartheid regime, at the invitation of the late president Abdel Nasser.
Cairo was also the first venue for an office for Swapo in exile, hence political relations between the two countries are characterised by strong and durable ties.
In April 2008, Namibia sent its first ambassador to Cairo after it established its first diplomatic representation in the Middle East during 2007. Shifeta said there is already active technical cooperation between the two countries in terms of diplomacy, defence, police, education, agriculture, fisheries and media, in addition to sharing expertise and providing food and medical assistance.