Namibian President Hage Geingob over the weekend implored African governments and the private sector to aggressively champion industrialisation in their economies and curb over-reliance on raw commodity exports.
Geingob, who was on a three-day state visit to Zimbabwe, spoke at the official opening of the 58th edition of the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF) in Bulawayo, where he noted that the challenges facing the African continent and rising youth unemployment could only be addressed by harnessing regional linkages and pursuing
a robust regional industrialisation agenda anchored on value addition and beneficiation.
He bemoaned low intra-regional trade and reliance on imports from developed economies, which he blamed for the continued use of economic models that serve colonial interests.
“Trade between African governments has generally been low,” said President Geingob.
“This is so because our trading patterns have been aligned to service the requirements of former colonial powers and partly because many African countries essentially produce similar goods, mainly agricultural and mineral commodities,” he said.
“Little or no beneficiation takes place in many of our countries and the bulk of finished products are imported from Europe and Asia. This must change. There is not a single advanced country in the world today that did not go through the industrialisation process. African economies will be no different. To address burning challenges, in particular youth unemployment, we will have to expand our industrial base and manufacturing capabilities,” said President Geingob.
He expressed optimism that Zimbabwe’s economy was poised to register robust growth on the back of good rains and the anticipated bumper harvest which lays a solid foundation for growth in other processing sectors and attainment of food security.
He said agricultural exhibitions at the ZITF demonstrated that Zimbabwe is the breadbasket of the SADC region.
“Zimbabwe as the breadbasket of SADC is poised to reap a bumper harvest this year,” he said.
“From what I have seen before we came here touring the stands, particularly the agricultural sector, I must state that Zimbabwe is indeed the breadbasket of SADC. This positive outlook should bolster our hopes and encourage our business people to get ready to capitalise on the opportunity represented by this development,” said the Namibian head of state.
Similarly, the Namibian president said the Namibian economy was recovering, presenting opportunities for trade and investment between Namibia and Zimbabwe.
While Namibia recorded trade in goods worth about US$13 billion in 2016, Geingob said his country’s trade with Zimbabwe in the same period was only US$24 million.
“This low level of trade presents a big opportunity for both countries.”
Geingob commended Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe for taking the lead in advocating an industrialised Africa.
He said it was under President Mugabe’s able leadership as chairman of SADC that the regional industrialisation policy and implementation framework was adopted in 2015.
Zimbabwe has already domesticated the value addition policy under Zim-Asset.
“We must work hard to ensure this important roadmap does not collect dust on the shelf, but is implemented with a sense of urgency,” said Geingob
He called on African states to embrace regional economic integration, break regional barriers to trade and specialize in unique competitive advantages to create regional value chains that can compete globally.
Geingob’s visit was the first of its kind to that fraternal country by the Namibian President since assuming office two years ago. It was being conducted in the interest of further strengthening the bilateral relations between the southern African neighbours.
The state visit was preceded by the 4th Round of Diplomatic Consultations held on 24 April and the hosting of the 8th Session of the Namibia-Zimbabwe Joint Permanent Commission of Cooperation from 24-26 April.
Interactions with the Business Sector
During the state visit President Geingob addressed Zimbabwean representatives of various local industries on 27 April in Harare when he officially opened the ZITF.
A select group of Namibian businesses were represented during this visit and some also exhibited at the ZITF that took placein Bulawayo.
First Lady Monica Geingos, Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwa, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Immanuel Ndgatjizeko, Minister of Industrialisation, Trade, and SME Development, Alpheus Naruseb, the Minister of Works and Transport, Doreen Sioka, Minister of Gender Equality and Child Welfare, and senior officials accompanied Geingob to Zimbabwe. – The Herald newspaper in Harare with additional reporting by New Era