“Relations transcended, politically and economically”
What do you have to say about the current bilateral relations between India and Namibia?
India and Namibia have always shared a very warm and excellent relationship, not only after the independence of Namibia but even before that. You may recall that our current ruling party South West Africa People’s Organisation (SWAPO), was accorded diplomatic status by Delhi in the year 1986 which was before we got independence in 1990. The two nations have not only been engaged in a political relationship but there has been a lot of engagement in bilateral trade practices. The High Commission of India to Namibia was set up immediately on the date of our independence on 21st March 1990. In 1994, Namibia set up its fully functional High Commission in India. This tells us about how long the two nations have been maintaining diplomatic relations.
We have seen a culmination of high-level visits between the two countries. In 2009, our former President visited India. In 2015 our current President, Hage G. Geingob, participated in the India Africa trade summit. Our founding president during his tenure had visited India 11 times. The former President of India His Excellency Pranab Mukherjee also visited Namibia in 2016.
After setting up our high commission in India in 1994,we signed and formalised trade relations. A joint trade committee of India and Namibia was established and has met three times since then. We are anticipating having our fourth meeting in 2020 to engage and look at the trade opportunities. This briefly summarises how our relations have transcended, both politically as well as economically.
Namibia will be celebrating the 30th Year of Independence on March 21, 2020. Any special preparation in progress for the big day?
This will be our third decade of peace and stability that Namibia has enjoyed and there are a lot of preparations being made to make every bit special. It is a date that is quite prominent and important in the lives of Namibia. Back home all the arrangements are being done to give prominence to this event. Many activities are also planned for the day. The event involves people from different sectors and people for various spheres to make everyone feel part of the day. It is an inclusive arrangement that also speaks to the youth of the nation by organizing events that the youth will associate themselves with. Events like music and art festivals are planned to create a vibe for the big date. We have started all our preparation to make sure that we bring about a befitting celebration on our independence day this year.
What are the major investment opportunities in Namibia? Please tell us about the logistical and infrastructure system favouring the investment opportunities?
Namibia is an open economy where the investors are welcome to invest in areas of their choice. As the government, we have specific sectors that have been prioritized. The intention is not to limit the investors but just to highlight the opportunities that can be considered.
There are investment opportunities in sectors like manufacturing, agro-food processing, energy sector services, agriculture, education, health, mining, exploration of resources with emphasis on value addition.
In terms of logistical and infrastructure systems that we have for supporting investors, I must say that we have very investor-friendly policies in Namibia. At place is Namibia Trade and Investment Promotion Act, which is carefully crafted to entice the investors. Namibia is one of the very few countries that repatriate your profits on 100 percent investment without any inhibiting legislations. Investors are also given similar safety and guarantee measures as locals. They also benefit from similar facilities or protocols as locals. Not only is the investment safe in Namibia but it is also a very peaceful and stable country. The crime rate is very low and the investors can also be at ease, without having to worry about your safety all the time.
Talking about the Infrastructure, firstly the financial system of Namibia is excellent. The amenities that investors may require, such as land, electricity, water and health facilities are easily available. These factors make the environment very conducive for the investors to consider Namibia for investment. One must also consider the excellent port facilities available in our country. They are highly beneficial in terms of ranking, taking into account their efficiency and effectiveness. The transaction of cargo facilitation happens efficiently, which in turn saves time and money for the investors. Not just the ports, we have an excellent road infrastructure, with networks connecting Namibia to our neighbouring countries such as South Africa, Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Angola. Given all these facilities as our disposal, it makes Namibia an attractive choice for the investors.
I would also like to mention that we have availed the dry ports for our land-locked neighbours, which makes doing business in Namibia with our neighbouring countries very convenient. The number of airlines that are flying within the region and internationally makes it very easy for potential investors to travel to Namibia at any point of time.
Which are the major Namibia business houses investing in India, and what can be done to attract more Indian corporates to invest in Namibia?
We have quite a large number of Indian companies that have invested in Namibia.Unfortunately, the same is not the case when we talk about the presence of Namibian companies in India. For example, Vedanta is a big name in mining; the company acquired a scorpion zinc mine in Namibia for a very significant amount of $750 million a few years ago. This makes Vedanta the biggest Indian entity operating in Namibia at present. We also have the presence of other companies such as GPT resource group, Tata Group, Mahindra as well as some other companies in pharmaceuticals and plastic packaging investing in Namibia. This is a clear indication of the Indian companies finding comfort in the warm investment environment in Namibia. This explains why we say that Indian companies can invest and consider Namibia as a preferred location for investment. It would also be right to say that the Indian companies looking forward to investing in Namibia will surely be able to flourish in their respective sectors.
Namibia has a huge potential in the tourism sector. What are the major activities done by the Namibia government to boost this space?
As a high commission here in India, we are an extension of the Namibian government. Our mandate is not only on political diplomacy but also on trade and economic diplomacy. We are quite aggressive in terms of interacting with business chambers and business entities and the government institutions responsible for trade. We have been extensively engaging in marketing Namibia in terms of the opportunities that prevail in the country. Likewise, we have been appraising the Namibian entities about the opportunities that prevail here in India. This arrangement is made easier by the Indian institutions working towards the same goal. Also, trade shows and conferences in India have given us a platform to talk about specific issues.
Similarly, the tourism sector is also very lucrative and has a lot to offer.We have worked towards this by engaging with the travel companies and iterated them about the travel opportunities, places and packages that can be offered to the tourists. I can very confidently say that Namibia is an attractive tourist destination with many unexplored surprises for the tourists travelling to our country. Namibia Tourism Board has been working at lengthto create awareness about the beautiful sceneries, diverse flora and fauna that Namibia has to offer. There are various beautiful zones in the country which make for a picturesque experience. It is an ideal place for nature enthusiasts and wildlife tourism as we have many national parks with diverse wildlife. The travellers get to experience the wildlife in its undisturbed state and also get a sight of elephants, rhinos, cheetahs among other animals. If you compare the land size of Namibia with the population, you will be able to see many vast open spaces. The country offers diversified travel experience as the travellers can explore mountainous areas, coastal land and wild forests.
The trade relations between India and Namibia have witnessed steady growth over the years. What do you think are the major areas for growth and concern for both the nations?
As much as the two nations share excellent relations, there is still room for developing trade opportunities. There is work required towards improving transactions between India and Namibia. We are quite optimistic that given the drastic improvement in the engagement with the companies, there are lots of queries coming in. Many businessmen have travelled to Namibia to explore their opportunities. We have been experiencing positive growth in the trade sector. This year we have plans underway to lead a large business delegation to Namibia. We also have the India Namibia joint trade committee that is expected to convene in the next couple of months to review our trade relations and potential areas of improving our trade. Joint ventures between Indian and Namibian companies should be a vehicle to see much of the business being done between the two countries.
How have the relations between India and Namibia changed after Mr. Narendra Modi became Minister of India?
Not much has changed apart from the fact the relations between the countries have grown from strength to strength. There has been a significant improvement in the India-Namibia Relations and we are happy about the status quo.
A lot of Indian products from South South Africa are also re-imported into Namibia via the SACU route. What can be done to make this a direct transaction between India and Namibia?
Yes, most of the commodities are actually entering the Namibian market via South Africa. The reason behind this is that Indian goods are shipped through the Indian Ocean, while Namibia is in the Atlantic Ocean. However, there are various corridors within the regions where networks are being built and this situation is most likely to improve in the near future. For example, if the route networks between Mozambique and other African countries to Nambia are enhanced, it will be a much shorter and convenient route.
We do not mind the current situation as it is not a complete loss to us. Namibia belongs to SACU, which is a customs union of the five-member states in the region. The current predicament is that we have not been able to finalize our trade negotiations between India and SACU and is still pending. We have been designated to be the convener or the coordinator of SACU India negotiations which are also slated for this year. If that is concluded, there will be further enhancement of trade via SACU with the member states. In the long run, direct trade is going to materialize when we have a full realization of companies doing business directly with Namibia and Namibian companies sourcing goods and commodities directly from India. We want to work towards exposing Namibian companies to India as this will help in establishing direct relations with the suppliers. Equally, I think it is also beneficial for the Indian companies to have direct links with Namibia who are currently doing business with Namibia through South Africa via agents.
The multi-faceted relations between India and a Namibia are complemented by cultural bonding. How do you think both nations can benefit from this unique association?
We are grateful that the High Commission of India to Namibia who equally sees the importance of this cooperation at the cultural level. The business between the two countries can only be enhanced by developing good communication and understanding between the peoples on both sides. People-to people connect can only be improved when there are enough opportunities to exchange thoughts on social and cultural arenas. This month there were 16 cultural groups from Namibia which participated in one of the largest cultural programs in India. There have been many similar interactions in the past as well. As a government, we are encouraging our cultural entities to facilitate exposure so that there is bonding and participation of people across all the spheres.
Government of India offers 22 scholarships to every year for students from Namibia to pursue undergraduate/postgraduate courses/research work in various Indian Universities. What can be done to facilitate Indian universities to open their learning centers in Namibia?
The opportunity for setting up academic institutions does prevail in Namibia and we have been showcasing and marketing this idea to potential investors in India. Namibia is open for Indian companies to come and look into the possibility of investing in this sector. Given the technologies available today, one can cooperate with other academic institutions in Namibia and can provide lectures and teaching via video conferencing. We have been encouraging the institutions to consider doing this so that programs can be delivered to Namibian students via ICT from India. There was a memorandum of an agreement that concluded sometime back between India Institute of Management and Namibia Institute of Public Management. In a nutshell, Indian companies are most welcome to talk to us about this very specific area for investment.
Several Indians/NRIs/PIOs RIs/PIOs form part of the Namibia workforce. What are the various programs offered by the Namibia government to ease their stay and travel in the country?
I must submit that there is an agreement between India and Namibia where the travelers with official and diplomatic passports do not require a visa permit. These diplomatic passports are generally issued to government officials. It makes it much easier for the ex-pats to come to Namibia and vice-versa. Entry is given for the expatriates for a maximum of three years, subject to renewal. It is safe for the Indians to stay in Namibia and they are treated the same as the local Namibians. We ensure the safety of Indians travelling to Namibia. As a high commission here, we assist and facilitate this process in a speedy way.
Would you like to give any message to our readers?
I would like to appreciate our potential readers in advance, and also want them to be associated with Envoy Excellency Magazine to come onboard in every possible way. I would like to also thank them for showing interest in this project.