Economic diplomacy can turn the tide
President Hage Geingob has deepened his economic engagements abroad since taking office last year and his efforts are starting to bear fruit.
For far too long Namibia’s diplomatic relations have been very much of political nature, which makes perfect sense because of where we are coming from as a nation. Many nations have been in our corner – wiping blood and sweat off our faces as we intensified the war against apartheid and colonialism.
It was, therefore, logical that for a calculated time after independence we needed to maintain political ties with nations that have been there with us when the rest of the world grabbed popcorn to watch as we fought the enemy in a bitter and bloody struggle.
But Geingob knows, and he has said this on countless occasions, that his mandate now is no longer to just to dwell on political correctness in the eyes of other nations, but to move the Namibian economy into high gear.
If there is one thing that Geingob has done with heart and finesse, it would be economic diplomacy. The overhauling of the country’s foreign policy earlier this year was aimed at injecting into this policy a new lease of life and a cutting edge to pave the way for proper economic engagement with nations that matter in the global arena.
President Geingob also gave clear hints during the gathering to review the country’s foreign policy that – without throwing our precious baby out with the bathwater – the revamped policy would usher the country into a new economic direction. We have started to see the manifestation of that in recent months.
India, probably the fastest growing economy currently, made economic diplomacy an integral part of its foreign policy since independence. Scholars of diplomacy are in concurrence that the institutions of diplomacy have to work with a growing community of stakeholders, that diplomacy is becoming the business of managing networks and that public diplomacy is a key feature of the diplomatic arena.
We have witnessed the early successes of this diplomatic orientation earlier this month when the country held its Invest in Namibia conference, where hundreds of aspiring investors – local and international – came to present their cases.
On the cusp of the 21st century, Namibian businesses need to start playing a more crucial role in advancing the country’s economic interest at home and – we dare say – abroad. The private sector today is eager to see the State engaged more deeply in economic diplomacy so as to help access new markets for our goods and services.
The Invest in Namibia conference was government’s way to help local private sector players meet and greet with their foreign counterparts and conclude deals that can help the domestic economy grow. The diaspora engagement that Geingob is pushing is, therefore, a timely intervention.
The President is scheduled to meet his French counterpart, Francois Hollande, in Paris, France next week and will also address investors in that country. He will then head to London, England, where he is scheduled to meet Queen Elizabeth and investors in that country.
The trip to Europe should, therefore, be seen as an important window of opportunity for Namibia and her aspirations to attract top investment, which could in turn create wealth and jobs for Namibian families.
The fact that Geingob is personally taking the bull by the horns, instead of delegating his lieutenants to do the job is also highly commendable. Globally Namibia is not too well known, so it requires a person of President Geingob’s stature to draw the attention of those who are willing to listen to the Namibian story.