His Excellency Dr Hage Geingob, President of the Republic of Namibia accompanied by a delegation consisting of ministers and corporate representatives visited the Peoples’ Republic of China from 28 March to 02 April 2018.
The purpose of this article is to analyze the significance of the visit against the backdrop of recent international developments.
The first point to observe is the signing of the African Continental Free Trade Area (ACFTA) in Kigali, Rwanda, the recent visit of Mr Sergey Lavrov, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation to Angola, Mozambique, Namibia and Zimbabwe, and the ascendance of new presidents in Botswana South Africa and Zimbabwe.
Secondly, China is the second largest economy in the world, and China’s voice and leadership matters in global affairs.
I have highlighted these developments to alert that states are competing and positioning themselves to advance national and global interests.
We should therefore analyze and interpret the State Visit against the backdrop of positioning of states to advance political, social and economic interests in a competitive global world.
President Geingob during his visit, according to media reports, and the statements that he has made, seems to have emphasized social and economic interests. It is not surprising that the two Governments amongst others have signed agreements on economic and technical cooperation.
This include memorandum of agreement between Exim Bank and the Ministry of Finance, and protocol to facilitate beef export to China.
Notwithstanding the agreements, it is important to emphasize that international relations is an extension of domestic values, principles and policies with the view to advance national interests, hence the notion of permanent interests, and not permanent friends.
The strategic engagement of China in Africa is to advance strategic national industrialization and developmental objectives. China is not necessary in Africa, because of their support to the African national liberation struggles.
This is significant, but they use it strategically as entry points to pursue national and global interests.
It is imperative against the above stated background that certain conditions should exist in Namibia for the country to engage in complex bilateral and multilateral negotiations.
Firstly, Namibia cannot continue to have competitive economic advantages in all sectors of the economy. We need to define strategic economic sectors that will propel sustained economic and social development of the country.
Many developed countries in the world today do not have natural resources, but human capital and innovation strategies. I will argue that Namibia has not developed the agricultural, tourism and other services sectors as areas of competitive advantages to lead economic development. We continue to experiment with everything.
Secondly, China is smart in their bilateral and multilateral engagements. Namibia needs skilled and experienced professional, especially in international relations, international trade and international law to effectively participate in complex negotiations.
Thirdly, the values and principles of our Constitution should inform Namibia’s bilateral and multilateral engagements.
What is important from the Visit is not the agreements per se, but follow-up strategies to ensure sustained and tangible benefits. As we might recall, the President at the opening of the first Cabinet meeting on 08 February 2018 stated the following:
“The recently announced Foreign Travel Ban will be extended beyond the month of February 2018. Following this period, the approving authority will carefully consider all requests for foreign travel.
We recognize that we cannot completely ban all foreign travel.
The intention is to exercise control and reduce the size of the delegation. In exceptional cases, invitations for statutory travel must be properly motivated, and approval thereof be weighed against potential value gain.”
I have extensively quoted from the statement for two reasons. Firstly, to highlight that it is a Presidential directive that foreign travels should produce results. Secondly, that from now on, foreign delegation must be small.
The delegation to China by any standard was too big notwithstanding the rationale.
Citizens have therefore the right to insist on full disclosure of agreements entered into, and to expect value for money both in the short- and long-term.
Experiences have taught us that agreements alone are not sufficient. Action speaks louder than words, hence the need for a follow-up action plan and strategies.
Dr. Marius Kudumo is an international relations expert
Views asserted in this article are his own and not those of his employer.