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Forging South-to-South ties with Indonesia

2018-08-31  Staff Reporter

Forging South-to-South ties with Indonesia

Diplomatic relations between Namibia and Indonesia were established in 1990, formalized in 1994 when Indonesia opened a resident mission in Windhoek, which still stands today as one of the longest resident missions in Namibia. 

It has become standard practice that in addition to every official mission and state visit I undertake, we incorporate an engagement with the business sector, in line with Namibia’s Policy on International Relations, which is to move away from “traditional diplomacy” to economic diplomacy.

I was therefore honoured to meet with the Indonesian business community, to strengthen economic relations between Indonesia and Namibia, in the context of South-South Cooperation, towards our ideals of poverty eradication, inclusive growth and shared prosperity.

Indonesia is the birthplace of large-scale Afro-Asian cooperation, where 63 years ago, Asian and African leaders met in Bandung, for the now famous Bandung Conference. Hosted by the late President Surkano, this conference was a stepping-stone towards the Non-Aligned Movement and a platform for the promotion of Afro-Asian economic and cultural cooperation. The Bandung Conference encapsulated the spirit of unity and familiarity that exists between the people of Asia and Africa. It is in this spirit that I have travelled, with my delegation, to Indonesia.
I am not surprised by the fact that there were members of the business community from other South-East Asian countries during my visit. As chairperson of SADC, it gives me great pleasure to use this platform to promote greater economic cooperation and trade with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), whose headquarters are based right in Jakarta.
Namibia has created a conducive environment for investment. We have introduced the Harambee Prosperity Plan to fast track government’s accelerated development and economic transformation agenda, as stipulated in the 2014 Swapo Party election manifesto and our policy documents such as the NDPs and Vision 2030. The Harambee Prosperity Plan is anchored by five pillars, namely: 1) Effective Governance, 2) Economic Advancement, 3) Social Progression 4) Infrastructure Development, 5) International Relations and Cooperation.

In Namibia, we are still dealing with several socio-economic challenges such as income disparities, high unemployment and the existence of pockets of poverty. Through the implementation of the Harambee Prosperity Plan, as well as our [national] development plans, we aim to redistribute wealth meaningfully in order to yield transformation that can correct historical injustices.

Our international engagements are aligned to the Harambee Prosperity Plan, which has strategies that are people-centred, to enable Namibians to realise their full potential and to prosper according to their inherent abilities. Namibia is therefore open for business!

To facilitate private investment into the economy, the government of Namibia enacted the 2017 Public Private Partnership Act, which sets out clear rules of engagement for joint projects between the public and private sectors. Options include:
“Build Operate and Transfer” models, in particular in the area of logistics and property development;
Project financing for projects with secured revenue streams.

Other initiatives include unbundling of the energy market through provision of off-take agreements to independent power producers, especially in the area of renewable energy.

I would like to emphasise that one key advantage Namibia offers to investors is its strategic location as gateway into the Southern African market. Due to trade arrangements such as SACU and the free trade agreement under SADC, presence in Namibia translates into having access to a market of approximately 330 million people. With the continental free trade agreement gaining traction, this figure will increase to over 1 billion people, of whom more than half are young, upwardly mobile Africans.

According to the IMF’s World Economic Report, “Among emerging market and developing economies, growth prospects are becoming more uneven, amid rising oil prices, higher yields in the United States, escalating trade tensions and market pressures on the currencies of some economies with weaker fundamentals.” 

We are aware that these global economic realities have affected countries differently. Governments and business are therefore expanding their scope, exploring opportunities in other regions that can be translated into win-win partnerships.
The Indonesian economy, the largest economy in South-East Asia and one of the world’s largest emerging markets, is therefore a formidable frontier that offers Namibia and SADC opportunities for investment, skills development and technological advancement. This is the potential that lies in the Indonesia- Namibia and ASEAN-SADC partnership.

There remain ample opportunities for Namibia to expand its trade, investment and economic cooperation relationship with the large Indonesian economy, especially in the sectors of agriculture, fisheries, tourism, minerals and energy and ICT.
Historically, Indonesia imports Namibian Zinc concentrate, while Namibia imports among others, agricultural products and rubber materials from Indonesia. Trade between Indonesia and Namibia remains very low and there is need to increase and diversify trade and investment between the two countries. During bilateral talks with President Widodo we endeavored to explore opportunities in the sectors of agriculture, fisheries, tourism and infrastructure development.

Although anti-globalisation sentiments and protectionist rhetoric seems to be permeating the current global political climate, we remain positive that through our political commitment to promote greater South-South cooperation, we will deliver on the promise of growth and a better quality of life for our people. 

This will require the free movement of people between our respective countries, so as to strengthen People-to-People exchanges and cooperation. In this regard we acknowledge with appreciation that the Government of the Republic Indonesia has exempted VISA requirements for Namibians. We will endeavor to reciprocate this gesture from our Indonesian brothers and sisters.

In conclusion, I would like to emphasise that investment and trade must be balanced and inclusive, to be sustainable. We recognise that for business, the Triple Bottom line is secured investment and sustainable profits. For government however, the Triple Bottom Line translates into maintaining peace, stability, social cohesion and unity. That is our social return. That is our profit. This underscores the inter-dependent relationship between the public and private sector.

As we deliberate on the enormous potential for trade and investment between Indonesia and Namibia, as well as ASEAN and SADC, let us tap into the infinite spirit of cooperation, established at the 1955 Bandung Conference, in order to create win-win outcomes.

* Dr Hage Geingob is President of Namibia. This is an abridged version of his speech on the occasion of the Indonesia-Namibia Business Forum in Jakarta, Indonesia, on Wednesday during his 3-day state visit to Indonesia.

2018-08-31  Staff Reporter

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