New Era journalist Kuzeeko Tjitemisa yesterday interviewed Ambassador of the Islamic Republic of Iran to Namibia Vahid Karimi. The interview touched on various topics but mostly on the potential cooperation between Namibia and Iran. Below are excerpts of the exclusive interview.
NE: What is the current trade volume between Namibia and Iran and what is Iran’s main export to Namibia and vice versa?
VK: “In the name of God, thank you very much for providing me with this opportunity. I think it is very important that we have an interview every six months so that I can update you on our relationship with Namibia. It has been almost a year that I have been in Namibia. During this period I have been trying to establish a relationship with the people of Namibia. Coming back to your question. Unfortunately, there are no trade relations between the two countries. All that I have heard that is that there are Namibian products in the Iranian market but this is indirectly, maybe via the European market or the South African market. Also, I have heard that there are some Iranian products in the Namibian market and again that’s indirectly, maybe through South Africa. However, this is a good opportunity to start a trade relation. In saying that, in the near future I am going to meet the managing directors of some chain shopping centres to provide them with a list of hundreds of Iranian items that can be added to their list. But going into bigger projects, during the last year we have succeeded in convincing the Namibian government to import Iranian-made tractors that can be used for agriculture.
And also last year we had a successful Namibian delegation which visited Iran that was headed by the governor of the Omusati region, Erginus Endjala – they signed eight memorandums of understanding.
But when he came back he picked up two – one is the tractor so now the ball is in the Namibian court because they have to order the tractors, so now we are at that stage.
The second one is the setting up of an assembly plant for trucks, which can be produced in a Namibian brand so that it can be sold to the rest of Southern Africa. That’s how far we are.”
NE: I heard recently that the Iranian government is planning to go into partnership with the Omaheke region in the area of providing housing. Can you share with us what this is all about?
VK: ‘’No, we haven’t come to that conclusion, but one of the things Iran is good at is the housing sector. We have experience in mass housing. We have done it to the Iranians, why not here?
Why I say Iran can help Namibia in constructing cheaper houses is because we have done it for Iranians and we are open to do it here. We can provide cheaper houses – it all depends on the Namibian authorities. I am a fan of NBC news at 8pm and one of the things I have noticed is that there is a need for housing in this country.
Let me explain, the process will be very simple, we can set up a cement factory here, we can also bring our experts and housing materials.”
NE: What kind of houses are we actually looking at?
VK: “This could be housing complexes for singles, for families and bachelors. And all this will be very cheap.”
NE: Iran is one of the largest global oil and gas producers, have you ever considered Namibia as a potential market for Iranian oil?
VK: “Again this depends on the Namibian authorities – Iran is very rich in gas and oil. We can provide gas to the kitchens of the people of Namibia. If Namibia wants that, I can facilitate that. The base can be installed either in Walvis Bay, Swakopmund or Windhoek. Also, this can be piped out to neighbouring countries like Botswana and others.”
NE: I also understand that the Iranian government is considering importing Namibian beef, can you also shed light on this.
VK: “Yes! Again this has not been concluded. These are some of the ideas that I have been selling to the places I have been visiting. Yes, why not? Red meat is popular in Iran and we have been importing red meat from Brazil, and Namibia is much nearer to Iran, and this again depends on the Namibian authorities. I am inviting people who want to export read meat to Iran to visit me. I am ready to facilitate the process.”
NE: Any other additional information?
VK: Yes, other areas that can be explored are tourism. Seventy thousand Iranians visited South Africa in the last year – why can’t I facilitate that to happen here? Another thing I want to bring to your attention is that Iran recently constructed a science park in Uganda, why can’t we do the same here? The ball is with the Namibian authorities.”