AN INTERVIEW WITH H.E. DR MEKONDJO KAAPANDA-GIRNUS,
AMBASSADOR OF NAMIBIA TO BELGIUM
How would you present Namibia from an economic point of view?
Namibia is located in Southern Africa and is home to breath-taking landscapes and vast open spaces which are made for those who would visit, invest and develop our rugged and beautiful country. We offer entrepreneurs and investors the freedom and space to create, grow, innovate and shape the future.
Why is Namibia a good place to invest?
There are a number of reasons why investors should consider Namibia. We are an upper-middle income country that offers a business-friendly environment with a thriving “mixed” economy in which companies are free to compete. We are endowed with abundant natural resources and are considered to be a leading mining and fishing nation. Our tourism sector is dynamic and sustainable and we are proud of the fact that our agricultural sector is able to satisfy stringent international food safety standards and animal health regulations, and export products such as beef and fish and table grapes to the European Union. First African country to export beef to the USA (reference: www.reuters.com/article/us-namibia-usa-beef-idUSKBN20E1BB)
In order to improve Namibia’s ranking on the World Economic Forum’s Competitiveness Index and the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Index (we are currently ranked 9 and 11th in Africa, respectively), our government has implemented reforms and put into place various measures. One of them is the establishment of the Namibia Investment Promotion and Development Board (NIPDB) which has the mandate to attract domestic and foreign direct investment and improve the Namibian business climate.
According to the 2021 Index of Economic Freedom by the Heritage Foundation and the Wall Street Journal, Namibia is ranked 6th among 47 countries in the Sub-Saharan Africa region, and its overall score is above the regional and world averages. The Index, which scores the relative freedom of world economies, has commended Namibia for having improved its ranking within the moderately free category this year, aided by a substantial improvement in fiscal health. This feat and other actions taken by the government to support private sector-led growth means that we are well on our way to become a key investment destination on the African continent.
While boasting an already excellent road network infrastructure, ranked 1st in Africa for the 5th consecutive year, Namibia is still carrying out further upgrades on its logistical infrastructure as a whole, priming it to become a logistics hub. We have, for example, developed the Walvis Bay Corridors, an integrated transportation system of well-maintained tarred roads and rail networks and preferred trade routes which provide investors with easy, quick and cost-effective access to the markets of Southern Africa, West Africa and the world at large.
In order to overcome the limitations of a small domestic market, we have joined regional organisations and negotiated international trade agreements which provide goods manufactured in Namibia with preferential access to a series of important and lucrative markets. We are, for example, a member of the Southern African Customs Union (SACU), the world‘s oldest customs union, founded in 1910. Namibia also has access to the Southern African Development Community’s (SADC) Free Trade Area, the Africa Continental Free Trade Area and markets in Europe and USA through the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) and the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), respectively. Through these agreements, we have unlocked new markets which can be serviced by both foreign and domestic investors interested in exploring opportunities in Africa, Europe and America.
Investors should also consider Namibia because of the stable political environment we offer. Many investors, especially if they are newcomers to Africa, are looking for long term market stability and a predictable investment environment and this is precisely what Namibia has excelled in since our independence in 1990.
In terms of the legal framework, Namibia’s broad foreign investment policy is currently governed by the Foreign Investment Act (27 of 1990), which aims to address and stimulate foreign investment in Namibia. The Act guarantees equal treatment for foreign investors and Namibian firms, including the possibility of fair compensation in the event of expropriation, international arbitration in the case of a dispute between investors and the government, the right to remit profits, and access to foreign exchange.The Foreign Investment Act is complemented by a series of sector-specific legislations (e.g. the Minerals Act in the mining sector) which also regulate business operations, for example when it comes to acquiring permits and licences for specific business activities.
The Foreign Investment Act will soon be replaced by the Namibia Investment Promotion Act (NIPA) which seeks to create a more investor-friendly environment by providing the private sector with greater room for growth and creating more opportunities for reinvestment in Namibia. The revised Act will be finalised in the near future and is expected to come into effect in 2022.
On the whole, the investment climate in Namibia is very positive. Namibia welcomes foreign investment and provides a strong foundation of stable, democratic governance and good infrastructure on which to build businesses. Our legal, regulatory, and accounting systems are generally transparent and consistent with international norms and the country has a world-class financial system that offers all the services needed by investors.
What are the key sectors in which you would advise Belgian investors to invest in?
Namibia offers a myriad of investment opportunities in a variety of sectors. Traditionally, Namibia’s major investment sectors have been mining and tourism and these still offer vast possibilities. However, recently, in a bid to diversify Namibia’s investment offering, specific high-level research was conducted by the Harvard Growth Lab (HGL) to identify new investment areas. As a result, the following sectors are focus areas for Namibia to source for local and international investors:
Chemicals and Basic Materials;
Transport and Logistics;
Metals, Mining and
Machinery and Electronics;
Services (Digital and Global); and
The above sectors / industries are indicative of Namibia’s strong and deliberate drive to evolve from extractive investments towards value adding activities and new ventures. His Excellency, President Hage Geingob reiterated his commitment to ensuring that Namibia becomes the investment destination of choice in Africa.
How would you describe bilateral relations between Belgium and Namibia?
Namibia and Belgium established diplomatic relations in 1990 and since then our two governments have maintained warm and friendly relations. Earlier this year, the Belgian Government supported Namibia during a devastating fourth wave of the Covid-19 pandemic by donating Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) through the EU Civil Protection Mechanism, a generous act of friendship and solidarity. We also cooperate at municipal level. The cities of Lommel and Ongwediva will be celebrating 25 years of city partnership in 2023 and there is also a twinning agreement between Harelbeke and Eenhana. Our Embassy plans to build on these contacts and establish new exchanges and collaborations between academic and research institutions, training academies, start-ups, and even sports bodies.
Namibia and Belgium also enjoy good economic ties and trade with one another through the EU-SADC Economic Partnership Agreement which was signed in 2016 and became operational in 2018. The Agreement provides for duty-free and quota-free market access for Namibian products into the EU, including Belgium, and of course also offers substantial market access for Belgian products into the Namibian market and the SADC region. Our exports to Belgium consist mainly of zinc, copper, diamonds, semi-precious stones and, in smaller quantities, charcoal, fish, and grapes.
Diamonds represent an important pillar in the Namibian-Belgian economic relationship and constitute about 35% of our exports to Belgium. Namibia is one of the world’s top 5 producers of rough diamonds in terms of value and our gems are traded in Antwerp, the world’s leading rough diamond hub. Belgian companies and foreign companies based in Antwerp also participate in Namibia’s diamond sector as sightholders of the Namibia Diamond Trading Company, a 50:50 joint venture between the Namibian Government and De Beers, or as clients of Namdia, a parastatal diamond marketing and sales company. Two of the 13 active polishing factories in Namibia are owned by Antwerp-based companies and thus contribute to local value addition and beneficiation activities. Finally, Namibia is an active member of the African Diamond Producers Association (ADPA) and will continue to work together with the Antwerp World Diamond Centre (AWDC) in order to improve the image, professionalization and marketing of African diamonds in Belgium and worldwide.
Namibia and Belgium also enjoy good tourism linkages. Before the Covid-19
pandemic, the number of Belgian tourists to Namibia was steadily increasing and Belgium belonged to the top ten international tourist source markets for our country. We are fortunate to have several Belgian tour-operators who pro-actively market Namibia as a boutique tourist destination of choice and Belgian investors are also active in our tourism and hospitality sector, for example operating luxury lodges.
Namibian-Belgian relations are currently in a dynamic phase and we are busy expanding our cooperation into new areas. On 4 November 2021, Belgian Minister of Energy Tinne Van der Straeten and Namibian Minister of Mines and Energy Tom Alweendo signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) at the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow. The MoU will enable our two countries to de-carbonise our economies by supporting the development of a green hydrogen economy in Namibia with the support of Belgian investors. Because of our abundant renewable energy resources, Namibia has the potential to become a leading producer and exporter of green hydrogen and its derivatives. Belgium, on the other hand, will have to import hydrogen in order to achieve carbon-neutrality by 2050. Cooperation in the area of green hydrogen therefore represents a win-win scenario which is good for our economies, our people and the planet.
We hope that by working together with CBL-ACP, more Belgians will become aware of the exciting opportunities that exist in Namibia and be inspired to join us to build new mutually-beneficial partnerships between Namibia and Belgium in areas such as trade and investment, energy, tourism, education, research and development, technology, and culture.
Your Embassy is the first point of contact BUT Are there any other agencies with whom it is important to stay in contact?
Apart from our Embassy in Brussels, investors and businesspeople are encouraged to reach out to the Namibia Investment Promotion and Development Board (NIPDB), Namibia’s investment promotion and facilitation body. The NIPDB is the first port of call for potential investors. The NIPDB started operations in January 2021 and is located in the Presidency as an autonomous entity.
It has the clear mandate to promote and facilitate both local and foreign investment and discover new avenues that contribute to economic development and job creation.
The role of the NIPDB is to:
- Promote and facilitate investment by foreign and Namibian investors and New Ventures that contributes to economic development and job creation;
- Implement Namibia Investment Policy and attendant Strategy;
- Review and propose policy reforms and measures to support trade and investment promotion, conducive labour market policies, improve the country’s Competitiveness and the Ease of Doing Business;
- Develop and implement branding interventions that promote Namibia as an attractive investment destination;
- Develop institutional mechanism and assume lead coordinating role across all levers for SME Development nationally;
- Implement the National MSME Policy of 2016;
- Promote regional Special Economic Zones that leverage the geographic comparative advantages of each region; and
- In collaboration with relevant stakeholders, facilitate collaborative roles between the Government and private sector to stimulate the growth, expansion and development of the Namibian economy.
Importantly, the Board is looking to accommodate a one-stop center in partnership with the Ministry of Industrialisation and Trade, aimed at easing investors’ entry into business opportunities in Namibia by providing comprehensive solutions for investors to
register their businesses, access necessary permits, certificates and licenses, access industrial and commercial land, and ensure compliance with the range of policies and legislation that govern their business operations.
NIPDB Contact Details:
Namibia Investment Promotion and Development Board (NIPDB)
Cnr Garten street and Dr. A. B. May street |
T: +264 83 333 8600 | E: email@example.com
Is there a message that you would like to send to our members?
Yes, and the message is very simple: Namibia is open for business! We are a modern, strategically-located and future-oriented country that welcomes investors. We recognise and appreciate the role that foreign direct investment can play in complementing and bolstering our developmental objectives in terms of stimulating growth, diversifying our economy, increasing the industrial base, and promoting value addition. We offer access to a large regional market but at the same time, our smaller domestic market can also be an advantage for some Belgian companies. They can test their products and learn how to operate within an African environment before expanding into the region. Larger markets tend to be more complex, have more competition, and the cost of failure is often higher. Therefore, Namibia can be the perfect entry point for a cautious company that is seeking to internationalise into Africa for the first time.
I wish to invite CBL-ACP members to visit our beautiful country with its many contrasts and wide-open spaces in order to take advantage of the many possibilities for growth and business development that we offer. Business and investment inquiries can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org and will be swiftly attended to. Together with the NIPDB, we are happy to provide additional information about investment opportunities in Namibia and broker contact with Namibian companies, local partners, professional/industry associations, public agencies, and government officials.