Macron election won’t affect Franco-Namibian relations

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Albertina Nakale

Windhoek-French Ambassador to Namibia Jacqueline Bassa-Mazzoni says the election of a new president of the French Republic, Emmanuel Macron, has no immediate and direct impact on the work and staff of French embassies around the world.

Centrist politician Macron won the French presidential election on Sunday over far-right candidate Marine Le Pen.

Asked about the current state of trade and business relations between Namibia and France, she noted that France is Namibia’s 14th largest global customer, importing uranium, agricultural and food products, including fishery products, and generating a positive trade balance for Namibia.

“France exports to Namibia mainly industrial and agricultural machinery and equipment, as well as the French malt for breweries. Contributing to the increase of trade in services is the number of French tourists increasing considerably – from less than 10,000 in 2005 to more than 23,000 in 2016,” she said.

She said French companies invest particularly in areas identified by the government as priority areas and strategic to the country’s development, particularly water distribution and treatment, renewable energy, tourism and manufacturing.

Looking at Namibia as a regional gateway, the ambassador explained that more and more French companies are prospecting, and several significant industrial projects are about to take off, which would assist Namibia to develop an industrial base that adds value and boosts exports, as well as new skills and expertise.

She said in the spirit of the French presidency at the Climate Conference held in Paris in 2015 and strong commitment of the Namibian authorities to fight climate change by promoting renewable energy, a Franco-Namibian company, Innosun, is implementing a N$14 billion project to establish the first Namibian 500 MW wind farm south of Lüderitz.

The major and innovative project will contribute in the short term to Namibia’s energy self-sufficiency and on a larger scale to the implementation of the Paris agreement on preventing climate change.

At 39, Macron will be France’s youngest leader since Napoleon Bonaparte. Macron had won 64.78 percent of the vote, while Marine Le Pen garnered 35.22 percent, according to the French Ministry of the Interior.

Asked about the role of French embassies around the world when a new president is elected, Bassa-Mazzoni told New Era yesterday that the embassies and consulates worked hard in organising the electoral process to allow French citizens abroad to take part in these important moments in the democratic life of their country – firstly for the presidential elections and secondly for the upcoming rounds of legislative elections in June.

When asked how Macron’s election as president will affect French-Namibia relations, she maintained that France and Namibia have enjoyed excellent and friendly relations from the time of the Namibian liberation struggle.

She stated in the 1970s, France was particularly active in the United Nations Security Council in support of Namibia’s independence. In May 1981, she said, France recognised the unconditional right of Namibia to independence and SWAPO opened its office in Paris.

“Sharing the common goal of peace, security and development in Africa, our two countries have been enjoying regular institutional relations since then with regular high-level visits,” the ambassador noted.

Most recently President Hage Geingob was also welcomed by President François Hollande for an official visit in November 2017, she said. Therefore, Bassa-Mazzoni says, the friendly and strong relations between the two countries should continue under the presidency of President-elect Macron. Asked for an update on technical training and development assistance by France to Namibia, she said the official visit of President Geingob to France last November gave a strong impulse to improved bilateral cooperation.

She explained that many projects were discussed and are now progressively being implemented, as for example the cooperation between Airbus Defence and Space (ADS) and the Namibian University of Science and Technology (NUST) to create a Virtual Space Data Centre in Namibia and promote scientific cooperation and training in the aerospace field.

She said discussions also centred on the cooperation between various scientific institutions in France and Namibia to better understand the consequences of climate change on Namibian populations and biodiversity through a high-level study of the atmosphere.

“Our two states have also discussed agreements to be signed soon in the field of tourism, including gastronomy and hospitality vocational training, and in the field of culture, to strengthen the Franco-Namibian Cultural Centre (FNCC), which embodies our vivid cooperation since 1991.”

She said this list was not exhaustive though, as many older cooperation agreements are still in force while several new projects are being developed and discussed.

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