By Andreas Thomas
Windhoek – Namibia and China have enjoyed a healthy diplomatic relationship for many years.
This relationship dates back to early 1960 when China provided political and military support to Namibia in the struggle for independence against the apartheid South African regime.
During the 26 years of Namibia’s independence, the two have cultivated a strong bilateral relationship and successful cooperation in politics, economy, trade, education, and public health as well as maintaining a strong diplomatic relation.
To keep this relationship strong, President Hage Geingob recently appointed Dr Elia Kaiyamo as the new ambassador to China.
Kaiyamo, the former Home Affairs and Immigration deputy minister becomes the fifth Namibian diplomat to China.
Speaking during the commissioning of Kaiyamo and other two new ambassadors on September 2 in Windhoek, President Geingob said they were selected based on their expertise and strong academic backgrounds to represent Namibia with “dignity and honour”.
The head of state noted that Kaiyamo was chosen because of his revolutionary and liberation struggle credentials as well as academic qualifications to leverage the relationship with China.
The other new diplomats are Neville Gertze posted to the United Nations and Panduleni Shingenge to Algeria.
An elated Kaiyamo told The Southern Times that his diplomatic posting to Beijing is a big challenge, but one he is prepared to see through.
“This task is really big. But I am grateful to the President for choosing me for this task.
“As you know, China is the second biggest economy in the world, with the world largest population. That is as a big challenge in itself, and I am ready for the challenge,” said the 65-year-old.
“China is one of our trusted best friends that have been with us for many years – before and after independence. So the relationship we cultivated for many years is sound. We need to maintain it. That is why I feel humbled to go to China and continue this legacy to promote the relationship between our countries,” he said.
Although this is his first posting as an ambassador, this does not mean the former teacher and labour activist is a novice to diplomacy.
Kaiyamo was in the first pool of cadres to represent Namibia in foreign missions just after independence in 1990. A year later, he served as foreign service officer at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
He was later sent to Moscow, Russia as first secretary, then in 1994 as a counsellor for Namibian embassy in Vienna, Austria and as a permanent resident at the country’s permanent mission to the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO), International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the UN office in Vienna.
In 1998, he returned home and served as a desk officer for Germany and Austria at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
“I will be the fifth Namibian ambassador to China. So the groundwork has already been laid for me by my predecessors.
“My attention is to make sure the relationship between our two countries is strengthened, and promote our national programme like the Harambee Prosperity Plan, the National Development Plans and Vision 2030. These programmes will be the guiding principles.
“It is further important that I promote business and trade between our two nations and will push for a win-win situation in our partnership with China to make sure that our interests as a country are protected,” he said.
Kaiyamo is also banking on his strong academic background in form of undergraduate and postgraduate qualifications as well as a doctorate from the University of Cape Town, University of Namibia, Pacific Western University and Washington State University.
“Being one of the cadres who are academic sound, it will help me do my job easily, because I will be able to read between the lines.
And on top of my education, is my SWAPO credentials that will help me to see the bigger picture of our relationship with China,” he said.
Kaiyamo was one SWAPO liberation movement functionaries who remained in the country during the struggle for independence.
“I joined SWAPO in 1977 and became an activist since then. Throughout the 1980s, I found myself taking part in underground activities in a staunch manner.
“During the day I would teach, as part of my professional employment and during the night I would mobilise people into joining the liberation movement and encourage them to take part in its ideologies and objectives,” he said about his exploits during the days of the struggle against the Apartheid regime.
In 2000, he joined the National Assembly as a lawmaker under the governing SWAPO Party, before former President Hifikepunye Pohamba appointed him to home affairs portfolio as deputy minister in 2010.
Kaiyamo further noted that he will work to ensure that Namibia benefits from the $60 billion that China pledged for development in Africa.
The development package was promised by Chinese President Xi Jinping for development in Africa during the Forum on China – Africa Cooperation in South Africa last December.
The two countries have signed several bilateral agreements in areas of social and economic development, commerce and tourism and over the years, China has been assisting Namibia with financial assistance through grants, interest-free loans and interest-subsidised loans.
Kaiyamo noted that this assistance has allowed the southern African country to build roads, schools, hospitals and public offices.
Hundreds of young Namibians continue to benefit from the Chinese grants to study medicine, science and technology at the various universities in China.
Trade with China has also expanded, with China’s exporting to Namibia products including mechanical and electrical equipment, clothes, shoes, hardware, and other daily necessities.
While China also import mineral and marine products, hides, and live ostriches from Namibia.
Meanwhile, the Ministry Agriculture, Water and Forestry and stakeholders in the meat sector are finalising logistics to export beef to China.
This will make Namibia the first country in Africa to export beef to China, after the two countries signed a protocol on veterinary health conditions on quarantine in Beijing on August 3, 2015.
As a result of bilateral trade and economic cooperation, China has become a major source for Namibia’s Foreign Direct Investment.
After the signing of the Reciprocal Investment and Protection Agreement in August 2005, Chinese investment in Namibia has dramatically increased.
The Chinese embassy in Windhoek last year revealed that China’s investment has surpassed R60 billion in the past 26 years.
China has invested over R20 billion in the development of the Husab Uranium Mine, which by far the single biggest investment by China in Africa.
State-owned China Guangong Nuclear Power Company (CGNPC) own owns 90 percent, which once fully operational in the third quarter of 2016 will be one of the biggest open pit uranium projects in the world, churning out 150 million tonnes of rock and producing over 15 million pounds of processed uranium oxide per year.
The Namibia’s state-owned Epangelo Mining owns the remaining 10 percent of the mine.