THE 2010 TOURISM POST -MORTEM The true nature of our state of affairs
THE year 2010 was billed to be the best year for Africa, mainly due to the soccer World Cup coming to the continent for the first time. However as Namibia Minister of Environment and Tourism (MET) Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah reviews the year, a there were a lot of factors that came into play in the year to the extent that the World Cup nearly became more of a burden than a blessing. She however maps the way forward for the industry discussing how her ministry is bracing up for the future.
PF: Was 2010 a tourism success?
NNN: It depends on how one looks at the situation. Many had the hope that the World Cup in South Africa would bring a lot of tourism business. Our strategy was, however, to market Namibia beyond the World Cup and to capture displaced South-Africans. Our strategy worked as we created awareness about Namibia during that event. The south and the coastal areas were flooded with South-African tourists during the month of July 2010. At the same time our traditional tourists did not come during that time but we must not forget that the volcanic ash cloud that covered Europe impacted on our tourism sector in Namibia. All this must be put within the context that over the last two years we experienced the global recession that had an impact on tourism worldwide. It must be noted that Africa was the only continent that showed growth in the tourism sector during this whole time. Another milestone for Namibia was the nomination by the Travel and Tour Organisations for an Award of Recognition of benefits to communities through tourism and conservancies. I believe Namibia’s image as a tourism destination was raised. All in all, I think the sector responded well and is now back on the road to recovery after the dip.
PF: But there was a massive windfall promised on the eve of 2010, what really happened?
NNN: No one in the tourism industry has made a major expansion in hope of receiving many visitors as a result of the FIFA World Cup. That is why I argue that our strategy paid off. The sector, however, showed a steady increase after July as tourists started to come to Namibia.
PF: Does Namibia have a sustainable post-2010 World Cup growth strategy then?
NNN: We are not basing our strategy on the World Cup. The ministry is developing a National Tourism Development and Growth Strategy as well as a Tourism Investment Portfolio. These two strategic documents will position the sector strategically in order for it to play a role in poverty alleviation, employment creation and economic development.
PF: What situation is the South African tourism industry finding itself in today, after the World Cup? And what advice would you have for your counterpart?
NNN: I am not an expert on the South African tourism industry, and not able to advise my counterpart on the aftermath of the FIFA World Cup. Rather, what I can say is that we need a harmonised regional tourism strategy and develop more trans-frontier conservation areas with tourism cooperation as a key element. We need to harmonise our requirements for human resources in sectors such as tour guides and tour operators as well as the necessary required documentation and fees that apply to the sector.
PF: Are you satisfied with the representation of Namibia in foreign markets?
NNN: Under the current circumstances we can do more. We have focused mainly on our traditional source markets in Europe, that is, Germany, France, UK, Italy, Netherlands, Belgium, Austria, Switzerland, and Luxembourg, and also South Africa. These source markets are serviced by the Namibia Tourism Board (NTB) offices in South Africa and Germany, which are assisted by the representative agencies appointed in UK, Italy and France. We have started to move into new markets and now have NTB representation in China, both in Shanghai and Beijing, and very soon we shall have a representative agency for North America with the funding assistance by the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA). Under the MCA, the NTB website has been revamped to assist in reaching broad spectrum of stakeholders. Online marketing remains the most cost effective way of promoting Namibia as a tourist destination. One main aspect of this website is that it will have an interactive planning Visitor Map for visitors to plan their tours and take full control of their experience. It will also be available in Portuguese, German, French, Italian and Mandarin once fully functional. Marketing is a very costly affair and the NTB budget has to be increased if we want to be effective in all our marketing endeavours. At this stage, I also need to point out that we sometimes forget our regional market as well as domestic tourism. These are important components of our tourism sector that have potential to keep the sector going during our low seasons. Our campaign for domestic tourism is calling on Namibians to travel within their own country.
PF: How is the campaign for local travel fairing?
NNN: Domestic tourism strategy is part of the overall tourism growth strategy. Since we started the campaign some operators have offered good discounts for Namibians. Domestic tourism is an important element of our tourism sector and we need to give full attention to it. According to local occupancy figures, Namibians, followed by Germans, are number one users of accommodation establishments. Therefore, it only makes sense that we must also focus on Namibians, as this segment will in the long-term cushion the industry during the global economic downturns and when Namibia becomes a mature tourism destination market.
PF: There has been criticism that the Namibian tourism industry tends to sell more of the country in its own right, rather than the experiences, (people, culture and food). Is that so?
NNN: I will agree to that. We have over the years marketed Namibia in terms of its wide-open spaces, the landscape and wildlife. The National Tourism Policy that was adopted in 2008 is clear that government will promote and encourage the experience of local culture, traditions and customs and ensure that culture is not inappropriately exploited. It is my belief that Namibian cuisine, music and dance are as much a part of our tourism product, as wildlife and landscape. The campaign for cultural tourism is aimed at implementing that national policy.
PF: How should culture be defined when speaking of it in the context of tourism development?
NNN: Culture in the context of tourism development must be understood to mean how a nation can present itself in telling its history in a unique way to others. In that way, you will not only attract visitors to your country but also gain their respect as a nation. Cultural tourism should not be seen as taking photos of Namibians in traditional attires, an action sometimes being abused and exploited. Cultural tourism must have a meaning to the country’s culture and be part of the nation building and economic development. In 2008 we started the campaign for the promotion of cultural tourism. Health tourism is another area that we are seriously considering as we have some of the best places such as Gross Barmen.
PF: Does this imply the commoditisation of culture and if so, what are the problems that present to traditional societies in Namibia?
NNN: Since we started promoting cultural tourism we have not met any resistance from the traditional societies. That to me means Namibians are proud of their culture and they are ready to share it with the rest of the world with pride.
PF: Cultural tourism implies earning profit from people’s lifestyles, meaning the intrusion of outsiders into everyday life. What are the implications of that form of intrusion in terms of benefits?
NNN: Do you know that our staple food is part of cultural tourism? What is wrong in sharing traditional food with your guests who can come back tomorrow because they like your food? Namibian cultural groups have been participating in international cultural festivals. Cultural tourism is an elaboration of those cultural activities, including our rituals. However, as part of the global village, we must show our uniqueness and we do so with care to avoid exploitation. Therefore, with care, benefits do outweigh the challenges.
PF: What is the government doing towards BEE development in the tourism sector?
NNN: The ministry has, as its main objective, the promotion and development of Community Based Tourism and has a number of initiatives that are aimed at achieving this objective. The stumbling blocks that we need to overcome as we engage in BEE development in the tourism sector are access to capital, skills development, apprenticeships (including mentoring), strategic representation and access to markets. We will also have to consider the issue of land tenure as this can be negative in terms of attracting investment into communal areas. At present, NTB embarked upon training BEEs, about 33 of them so far, and has also piloted market exposure trips for 12 BEEs. The 20-day Entrepreneurship and New Venture Creation training certificate programme is aimed at enhancing entrepreneurial know-how and skills while developing the individual’s entrepreneurial self-efficacy. So far, we are compiling inputs from the participating BEEs on possible stumbling blocks for us to determine how we can address these. However, a holistic approach is still to be developed.
PF: There has been mushrooming of smaller tourism businesses over the past year, perhaps due to the World Cup. But, how is the ministry ensuring sustainability and long-term growth of these numerous tourism enterprises around Namibia?
NNN: If anyone has put up a tourist facility based on the World Cup, then that was not in line with the national strategy. It is not necessarily the responsibility of the government to ensure the sustainability of individual tourism business. Like any business in the tourism industry, an entrepreneur needs to carry out a feasibility study and financial projections in order to make an informed decision regarding the business venture. It is our policy that tourism investments, development and promotion must be market-driven. It is therefore important that assessment of the market potential and viability must be undertaken before committing resources. Otherwise projects risk failure, wastage of resources, local de-motivation, and the opportunity cost of these resources being invested in viable development projects elsewhere. The government will ensure that the enabling legal and policy framework is there and the rest is up to the entrepreneur.
PF: Prime Focus has introduced a Travel and Tourism page. Through that initiative we have learnt that most SMEs in the tourism sector are operating at the margin of survival. They lack the requisite experience to run a tourism business along modern management principles, even the nature of tourism demand renders them uncompetitive, as they are unable to capitalize on the advantages that accrue from the economies of scale. What are you doing to help them develop marketing strategies that can enable them to overcome these difficulties and thereby sell their products?
NNN: As I already said government is responsible for creating an enabling environment by putting in place the political, economic, fiscal, human and physical frame conditions conducive to the development of the tourism sector and also removing barriers. We must not confuse this role with that of the market. Business is business and access to effective market intelligence is the investors’ responsibility. However, due to the importance that government attaches to tourism development through NTB, assistance is given to SMEs in the area of marketing and training. Some SMEs were funded to participate in road shows in Europe and are free to market themselves through NTB website. The tourism industry is very challenging, and more so to the newcomers. People are used to the established operators to the point that one has to deliver extraordinarily for the tourists to change their minds and switch to new operators.
PF: What is being done to reduce the skills demand gap in the tourism industry?
NNN: It is our policy that the human factor is of prime importance in the tourism sector. The quality of service provided should be of a standard that meets the requirements of present day national, regional and international tourism.
The government is working closely with training institutions and the industry to address the issue of skills and demand in the sector. Last year, the NTB developed a career guide for the tourism industry, a very important tool tor training institutions in the country.
The NTB also developed the national vocational qualifications for the tourism and hospitality sector with the support of the Namibia Training Authority (NTA), which has been accredited by the Namibia Qualifications Authority (NQA). Currently, plans are under way to implement these training programmes with funding from MCA-Namibia over the next four years.
The first cohort of tour guides to be trained has now been enrolled and other skills are being determined.
With the assistance of the Commonwealth Secretariat and the Human Resources Development Review, an assessment study to identify skills gaps and propose the way forward is being undertaken to determine achievements since the first plan was implemented back in 2004.
PF: Has government helped in devising viable and sensible options for financing tourism infrastructure?
NNN: Yes, government has done so in terms of assistance given to the Namibia Wildlife Resorts (NWR) and community based lodges such as the Grootberg Lodge. Also the small grants given to SMEs, though limited, are aimed at helping them to improve on their tourist facilities.
PF: Are commercial banks offering solutions that add value to the tourism industry and market?
NNN: There is room for improvement. To my knowledge, I think, the First National Bank (FNB) is the only bank that has a tourism facility. However, the issue goes deeper than that; we need, as a matter of urgency, to develop fiscal and non-fiscal incentives for investors, who would like to invest in the tourism sector. This was done for the manufacturing, mining, fisheries and agricultural sectors but not for the tourism sector. Funding of tourist activities has now become urgent when the government has reaffirmed during the Job Creation Summit that took place this September, that tourism development is one of the sectors to be targeted for job creation.
PF: What is the long term outlook for the domestic hotel industry?
NNN: Evidently, we do not have enough rooms in the country. The recent SADC Summit in Windhoek saw many delegates without accommodation. I know that many people argue that bigger hotels such as the Hilton and others may push out smaller hotels out of the industry, but competition is always good. The fact of the matter is, we still need additional beds in Namibia, including Windhoek. In the same vein, there is a niche for hotels like of Formula One and Road Lodges. We seem to cater mostly for the businessmen and the upmarket tourists, yet there is a need to cater for all possible tourists so that they have a varied choice as to what they can afford.
PF: How can the benefits from tourism be spread more evenly throughout the society? There seems to be no equity in tourism-benefits sharing.
NNN: This is a serious challenge that must be addressed by all in the sector. It is the government’s policy that tourism development like other economic sectors, must contribute towards poverty reduction, reducing regional inequities, and promote economic empowerment. The aim is to ensure that tourism benefits host communities, particularly in rural areas. It is government policy that investors are required to commit themselves to the principles of empowerment, environmental conservation and appropriate sectoral codes of conduct, as outlined from time to time in government policy regulations and industry charters. To that end, once all role players have committed themselves to the policies, benefits from tourism can spread throughout the country.
PF: Talking of government, the traditional role of government has been to formulate policy for the tourism sector. Today, it seems focus has changed because of changing priorities occasioned by development in the international tourism scene. Has government not lost focus, because there are not many policies that best reflect the new thinking?
NNN: The tourism industry continues to be one of the major sectors in our economy and that was reemphasized at the Job Creation Summit. Therefore, the Namibian government has not lost focus in tourism. The 2008 National Tourism Policy is reflecting a new thinking, and for one to say there are not many policies is wrong. How many policies do we need? The 2008 policy is still new and is addressing the challenges facing the industry. Based on that policy, the ministry together with other stakeholders has started working on the Tourism Growth Strategy that must be ready by 2011.
PF: What does tourism have to do with poverty reduction and pro-poor growth?
NNN: I believe tourism has the potential to become the sector of choice for combating poverty, employment creation and serving as a catalyst for pro-poor growth. Tourism has the multiplier effect and thus generates a range of benefits that have impact on the livelihood of rural communities especially. As you may know, one tourist will benefit the transport sector big or small, that is; Air Namibia and an individual taxi owner as well as other economic activities including the communication sector.
PF: But there seems to be no sound utilization of local suppliers or the enhancement of not only their productivity but also inter-sectoral linkages.
NNN: I hope the tourism growth strategy and the investment portfolio will go a long way in addressing this issue. We need to be proud of Namibia and what we produce. Again provided that our local suppliers also maintain excellent standards, in any case we need to support our different local sub-sectors. All of us have a responsibility in ensuring this.
PF: Do you believe that Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) in tourism help improve investor confidence?
NNN: Our economic system is based on mixed economy. Therefore, PPPs can be a tool to reinforce the working together between the Government and the private sector, thus improving the investor’s confidence on those operations.
PF: How best can PPP in Namibia’s national parks help reduce reliability on state funding and improve existing operational efficiencies?
NNN: There is definitely potential in that approach as envisaged in the NWR Act. To that end, NWR has already embarked upon this. It is, however, important that such partnerships also adhere to sound business principle and are market driven. Proper assessment is required to ensure that they are sustainable and generate significant income for both the State and the investor, while ensuring the protection of the eco-system.
PF: How far true is it that the Corporate Social Investment (CSI) is often used by tourism ventures for the sole purpose of creating good publicity, yet in reality are not aware of how to actually implement them?
NNN: The Namibian tourism private sector has come up with a Tourism Transformation Charter that addresses this issue. You are right it can only work if all stakeholders truly adhere to it. The ministry will, with great interest, monitor the implementation of the Tourist Transformation Charter.
PF: Previously, you have spoken at length about concessions in Namibia. Why are they necessary?
Tourism concessions ensure that rural communities, especially those in conservancies and in areas adjacent to national parks, have a way of benefiting from tourism activities in their areas and through that receive benefits that can have a meaningful impact on their livelihood. Concessions on state land are aimed at opening up for tourist activities by the private sector while ensuring public ownership and proper management of the environment. Concessions are also a source of income to the state through the proper utilisation of the natural resources in line with the Namibian constitution.
PF: How can one identify concession opportunities?
The ministry has developed a tourism development plan or scoping of all national parks. One can contact the Tourism Concession Unit in the Ministry being chaired by the deputy permanent secretary for information. Concessions are also advertised in newspapers, I advise interested persons to make MET website one of their favourite internet sites.
PF: How are you marketing conservancies?
NNN: Good question. It is not really Government’s responsibility to carry out marketing, as this is the mandate given to the NTB. However, we have so far focused more on marketing Namibia as a whole to the outside world. It is, therefore, the responsibility of conservancies themselves to invest in marketing the products that they have to offer by collaborating with the private sector and the Namibia Tourism Board. With our successful conservancies programme acknowledged internationally and through Trans Frontier Conservation Area (TFCA), we are able to market tourist facilities in conservancies.
PF: What are the biggest challenges facing the Country Pilot Partnership Program at the moment?
NNN: The Country Pilot Partnership Programme (CPP) is based on recognition that land serves a variety of functions. However, one of the major challenges facing the CPP is the complexity of achieving cross-sectoral planning and implementation of integrated sustainable land management. This is due to inherited practices and approaches that lacked coherence. Another critical challenge relates to competing or conflicting community needs for land. Attempts to reconcile or harmonise these needs for the benefit of our communities, is another challenge on its own. In view of the apparent diversity in social, economic, and environmental perspectives of current and prospective land uses, the CPP Programme has introduced a more holistic and integrated approach to address some of the challenges within a single-and-coherent framework. This is an evolving work and good strides have been achieved by the ongoing partnership with other stakeholders.
PF: As a minister, what excites you most about this Integrated Sustainable Land Management programme brought by the CPP?
NNN: The most exciting aspect of the CPP Programme is seeing eight different sectors working jointly to achieve integrated sustainable land management. The programme has introduced an effective framework for the government to channel all issues relating to sustainable land management. Eight government ministries working together at all levels, national, regional and local, is kind of partnership approach to combat land degradation hardly known among most governments in the world and Namibia is at the forefront to share lessons and experiences at a global level. It is also gratifying that under the CPP value addition project the majority of participants are women.
PF: What is being done to protect the national habitats and making substantial financial commitments to conservation?
NNN: The national habitats of our country are threatened by a number of development activities like road infrastructure, dams, mining, and etcetera. In order to protect our national habitats from the impact of these development activities, the ministry requires an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) to be conducted before a development project is allowed to take place. After the proponent conducts an EIA, it must be submitted to the ministry to examine it and then make a decision whether to reject the project or to allow it to operate with a set of conditions.
PF: Every year there is talk of quad bikes destroying the coastal environment leaving permanent scars, now that we are in the festive season, don’t you feel that this issue has been spoken about for too long without much action?
NNN: It is not only quad bikes I am concerned about; some people use their 4x4 vehicles to destroy our environment along the coast. The ministry is not quiet. We developed an action plan to deal with the situation during the festive season. There will be vehicle patrols, foot patrols, and aircraft surveillance. This is a short-term measure. The long-term measure is to include those disturbed areas into a proposed national park. Once the national park is proclaimed, there will be no more quad bikes or 4x4 driving unless one risks arrest.
PF: You have been on record urging Namibians to “protect the environment so that it protects you”. Can you elaborate on that?
NNN: The environment is our source of life. The air we breathe, the water we drink, the soil we cultivate for food, and the medicines we use, all come from the environment. You know it is birds and other fling creatures that pollinate our plants and ants and other small animals on the ground that keep our soil together. What I have just said indicates clearly that our life as human beings depends on the environment. So, if we avoid unnecessary cutting of trees, burning of forests, take care of our birds and other living creatures and stop irresponsible quad biking or 4x4 driving, among others, we boost the capacity of the environment to protect the current and future generations.
PF: The Coastal Policy? Where are we? Your ministry was given funds to run the NACOMA project and spearhead the coastal policy. The NACOMA project, to our understanding was supposed ends this year. Where is the future of the coastal policy?
NNN: The projected end of the NACOMA project in 2011 but does not mean the end of coastal management in Namibia. With the World Bank support you just mentioned, we managed to kick-start the coastal policy process. Coastal management is a new concept in our country. Before we come up with a national coastal policy we needed to consult widely and educate ourselves on this issue. In August this year, we had a High-Level Workshop in Swakopmund for members of cabinet and parliament to deliberate on coastal management issues so as to inform our policy process on the matter. The critical issue is about how to incorporate different land use practices without compromising the sustainability of the environment. Where are we? We have so far completed the Green Paper, which explains the nature of the environment along the coast. Next, we completed a Draft National Coastal Policy. This draft policy is currently being refined to take care of the various concerns from the public.
PF: Too much has been said about climate change in Namibia. What is the country’s position in terms of adaption and mitigation efforts?
NNN: No one can stop the natural process of climate change. However, the ministry, in collaboration with other stakeholders, is trying to make sure that the impact of climate change is minimised through public awareness, training and capacity building as well as implementing a number of projects. As a government, we have through the Country Pilot Partnership and the Climate Change Adaptation pilot projects started to work with communal farmers to enhance their adaptive capacity through strategies such as drought tolerant seed varieties, heat tolerant livestock breeds, rainwater harvesting, and appropriate irrigation and livelihood diversification efforts. In partnership with UNDP, and a number of community-based adaptation initiatives such as fuel-efficient stoves are ongoing.
PF: The impact of global climate change in Namibia is already noticeable although projections seem to differ in detail, but are Namibians well educated on climate change issues?
NNN: The impact of climate change has become a global challenge and Namibia is not an exception. Education is a continuous process which is very important for people to understand climate change and its impact on their daily lives. The ministry, in collaboration with other government ministries, is engaged in promoting afforestation and agro forestry projects, and efficient lighting using energy bulbs, etcetera. A number of projects on renewable energy use such as solar, hydro and wind are underway. The government has introduced solar energy heating system in government institutions, solar stoves and is piloting a number of initiatives. There are, currently, a small number of people who understand issues of climate change in our country. But the majority are yet to be made aware of this phenomenon. The ministry is busy with the distribution of information through brochures, posters, booklets, newsletters, public talks and presentations at schools, colleges, workshops, and trainings and even through radio and TV programs. The ministry also conducted various trainings for various stakeholders including the media practitioners. A modest magazine of your magnitude may also consider having a regular space on environment.
PF: Certainly. The ministry recently received money for climate change adaptation and mitigation issues. What projects are you having for this money? Is there any need for mitigation efforts in Namibia?
NNN: I am not aware of any money received recently by the ministry. However, the ministry is hosting a project titled “Africa Adaptation Project” (AAP) being funded by Japan to the tune of US$3 million. The project is to implement climate change adaptation activities at a national level. The project is aimed at ensuring that Namibia has the institutional, individual and systemic capacity to address climate change risks and opportunities through a national approach to adaptation. At the moment, the ministry is in the process of introducing a National Climate Change Policy for Namibia. We have already completed our national consultative workshops on this proposed policy and the AAP project continues to play an important supportive role in this regard.
PF: The North being the most populated area in the country, also prone to climate change effects like floods, how is Namibia adapting to climate change, especially those in the rural areas?
NNN: Poor people especially those in rural areas are most affected by adverse effects of climate change. Namibia has just completed a national policy for disaster risk management to effectively manage risks including those associated with climate change. Government efforts are geared towards providing early warnings to prone communities, enhance disaster preparedness and awareness creation in order to reduce their exposure to negative weather elements. The ministry, through the Africa Adaptation Programme Project, will develop climate change vulnerability maps in order to warn communities from settling in areas that are likely to be flooded or prone to persistent prolonged droughts. Awareness rising is also being intensified throughout the country.
PF: What are Namibia’s expectations from the Cancun Conference and how far is the country’s preparations for the conference?
NNN: Namibia expects the Cancun Conference to conclude a global agreement which obligates industrialised countries to cut greenhouse gas emissions significantly. Moreover, less developed countries like Namibia, expects developed countries to make concrete commitments to reduce their carbon emission levels, and also to prioritise the funding of adaptation programmes, capacity building and technology transfer in less developed countries. With regard to preparedness for the Cancun Conference, Namibia participated in regional preparation meetings under the auspices of the UNFCCC-road to Cancun. We are also ready to present the country’s report on UNFCCC during that conference. In addition, we managed to run some training workshops for negotiators to Cancun. I am therefore satisfied with our preparations to the Cancun Conference.
PF: You are also passionate about young people. Where do they fit into your Ministry’s mandate and vision?
NNN: As a ministry, we believe that the youth and women are the most important actors in our endeavour to achieve biodiversity conservation and the protection of its habitats through environmental education, awareness and information services. The ministry will continue to facilitate the empowerment and active participation of youth and women in environmental policy and decision-making processes. In this regard, the ministry has in place an exciting strategies on, ‘Youth and the Environment’ and ‘Women and the Environment’. This are aimed at inspiring our youth through the activities of our environmental education centres, Annual Youth Symposiums, exhibitions at various shows and trade fairs; commemorations of World Environment day and events, EcoSchools projects, Environmental Clubs and Support Project, Namibia Environmental Education Network, and the Career Information Service. Recently we held a ‘Women and the Environment’ workshop at Outapi in Omusati region. All these activities were designed to accommodate the interests of women and young people in the area of environment and sustainable development.
PF: Your views on NWR? A lot has been said negatively about the institution. Is it not discrediting your position as Minister and what are you doing for this institution to return to positive coverage?
NNN: A person can only be discredited by their own deeds and not by what people want. I am aware that just before the SWAPO Electoral College, which brought in the current members of the National Assembly, there were two or three individuals who had political ambitions for reasons known by themselves. Those individuals have decided to pick on me. Their intention I believe was to influence delegates to the 2009 SWAPO Party Electoral College, so that I do not appear on SWAPO Party list to the National Assembly, thus signalling the end of my services in the Namibian Cabinet. Since I joined SWAPO in 1966, I held different leadership positions and given responsibilities before and after independence, both in SWAPO, the SWAPO Youth League, SWAPO Women’s Council as well as in the Government of the Republic of Namibia. In all cases I performed my duty without failure and with integrity; thus making it difficult for those individuals to make a case against me. Unfortunately without giving it a thought, they picked on NWR and their action almost cost the company. They fired at a wrong target and the bullet bounced back. As my interest is in the development of Namibia and the well being of the people of this country, I handled the matter in the manner I did and not much damage was done to NWR. I remain committed to my job and thank the president, Hifikepunye Pohamba for having given me another chance to work with him in serving the nation, in my capacity as Minister of Environment and Tourism.
On the last part of this question, as I said those individuals who have decided to target me using NWR have not succeeded and NWR operations continue to progress. It has to be accepted that NWR is the largest company in the hospitality industry, with 26 tourism facilities and employing closer to a thousand people. And like any other operating company, NWR has challenges and they are not insurmountable. To mention, the company has still to bring some of its facilities to an acceptable standard, need to train the staff in different skills and require resources for marketing purpose. As from January 2010, I have appointed a new Board of NWR, the Board has started well and I am confident it has the capacity to address the challenges facing the company. Some immediate and major projects to be implemented by the board include the renovation of facilities such as Gross Barmen, among others and the finishing of the construction of a new facility on the western side of Etosha National Park.
PF: At some point, there seemed to emerge some stiff resistance to NWR’s undertakings to privatise the management of some of its recreational resorts?
NNN: The word privatise may be misleading. The Act that established NWR is very clear that the company is allowed to entire into Private Public Partnerships (PPP). If they were some individuals who were not comfortable with NWR PPP programme, those people were possibly not aware of the act. However, I can tell you that cabinet approves all NWR PPP projects.
PF: What is the most pressing tourism and environment policy you are currently handling?
NNN: As mentioned above, the Tourism Policy is still new and we are working on its full implementation. On the part of the environment, I have already informed you that, the Ministry is working on the coastal policy, the climate change policy as well as the law on Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS). Those are the instruments that I want to see finalised as a matter of urgency.
PF: We have scenic beauty and diverse wildlife in Namibia. How can the environmental impact be minimised?
NNN: In answering to some of your questions above, I referred to the environmental management act that the Ministry of Environment and Tourism has to oversee its implementation to minimise the impact to the environment including our scenic beauty. To that end every development programme need an approval of MET, through the Environmental Assessment Impact and also the Environmental Management Assessment. The ministry is also careful when giving concessions in state land.
PF: What can we learn from Europe in terms of tourism and environment?
NNN: In terms of tourism, what we may learn from Europe is marketing. In terms of the environment we all know that the challenges we face today from climate change is a result of how Europe or developed countries have managed the environment. They have done more damage to the environment than good and we should learn not to follow them, while making sure we develop our economy to get our people out of poverty.
PF: China and much of Asia, are certainly on the rise in world economy. Are there any measures being undertaken to increase the number of Chinese tourists visits to Namibia, with a particular reference to the World Tourism Expo in Shanghai?
NNN: Yes, before Shanghai, MET and the Namibian Tourism Board, have developed tourism-marketing strategy for China and Asia. Currently, there is an MOU that was concluded by the Governments of Namibia and China to market Namibia in China and Asia. This MOU has granted Namibia an Approved Destination Status (ADS). The Shanghai Expo had an added value, because the number of Chinese visiting Namibia is growing, but we know we have to do more. Therefore in the near future we will have tourism promotion delegation to China and Asia; we need to tap in that big market. Tourism is a cross cutting sector and one of our major partners is the Ministry of Home Affairs and Immigration. We have to work with them, to see the best way of ensuring a smooth entrance of our tourists in line with Namibian laws and policies. Also to ensure the safety of tourists we are working closely with the Namibian police.
PF: How can we benefit from tourism while protecting the values and integrity of the community?
NNN: The only way as a nation can benefit from tourism while protecting the value and integrity of the community is when we empower the community economically and with skills, to be part of tourist activities. Empower the community to be part of decision making. I am convinced that through Community Based Tourism, Conservancies and support to SME’s in the tourism industry. This sector will make a significant contribution to the realisation of Vision 2030.
PF: As Minister of Environment and Tourism, how do you describe 2010, and what should we look forward to in the coming year?
NNN: The year must be viewed against the background of the previous years. The World Cup also had a negative impact, as our traditional tourists could not travel in the months of June and July, as tickets to Southern Africa went up, flights were full of soccer fans and some people thought the region was going to be noisy with soccer fans. However the dust settled and the industry has started to pick up. To that end, I am looking forward to a promising future. Judging from 2009 arrivals of 980,000 international arrivals having been compounded by external factors, Namibia is not likely to meet its target of 1,2 million tourists per year but should either gain moderate growth, or decline but I believe the tourism industry will not be highly negatively impacted.
In the sector of environment, internationally, the world failed to come up with an international agreement on climate change. It was the hope of many, that at Copenhagen, an international agreement on climate change will be reached to take over from the Kyoto Protocol, when it comes to an end in 2012. On the other hand, we have to celebrate the adoption of the Protocol on Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) adopted this year, in line with the Convention of Biological Diversity.
At home I am happy that there are many national environmental projects including those focusing on climate change mitigation, such as those under CPP. My focus for the future is to continue mobilising our people to understand the impotents of protecting the environment and to develop mechanism for mitigation to climate change and strategies for clean development. Namibia has to sustainably utilise its natural resources and industrialise in order to create jobs for our people to get out of poverty. PF
BORN in northern Namibia on 29 October 1952, Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah is the Namibian Minister of Environment and Tourism (MET).
She has been a Member of Parliament (MP) of Namibia since 1990 and has held ministerial status since 1996.
Often referred to as Meme Netumbo, according to her Oshiwambo tribe where mothers are addressed as such, Nandi-Ndaitwah is a holder of a Masters Degree in Diplomatic Studies from Keele University in the United Kingdom.
She also has post graduate diplomas in International Relations and Public Administration and Management from Keele University and Glasgow College of Technology.
She was among the first five people to leave Namibia for exile in 1974 not as the only female but also the group leader.
When she returned to Namibia in 1989 on the eve of independence, she was appointed Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, a position she served until she became Director-General of the department of Women Affairs, with a ministerial rank, in the Office of the President from 1996 to 2000.
At the first congress of the ruling Swapo Party held in independent Namibia, Nandi-Ndaitwah was elected to the Central Committee of the ruling party holding the position of Deputy Secretary General in 1996.
She was the Rapporteur General of the Fourth World Conference on Women held in Beijing, China in 1995.
In preparation for the fourth World Conference on Women, she served as the Chief Negotiator for Africa and was also Chairperson of the National Preparatory Committee for the Fourth World Conference on Women and led the Namibia delegation to that Conference.
In the late ‘90s she emerged as the dominant personality in Swapo Party Women’s Council, hence at the last congress of SWAPO Party Women’s Council she scored the highest votes to book a place in the central committee.
In 2000, under Hage Geingob , the then prime minister, Nandi-Ndaitwah was deputy head of the Namibian delegation to the Twenty-third Special Session of the UN General Assembly titled “Woman 2000: Gender Equality, Development and Peace for the Twenty-first Century” .
In 2002, she was elected to the politburo as Secretary of information and Mobilisation thereby becoming the defacto party spokesperson.
Between 2000 and 2005, she served as Minister of Woman Affairs and Child Welfare where she played a pivotal role in advocating for the protection of the rights of women and children.
As President of the Namibia National Women’s Organization (NANAWO), she has worked with the Law Reform Commission to promote the adoption of national legislations on Married Persons Equality and Domestic Violence; she initiated the discussion in the UN Security Council on women and peace that led to its adoption in the UN Security Council Resolution 1325.
She became the Minister of Information and Broadcasting in 2005 up to 2008.
Her political career started in 1966 when she joined Swapo. In 1970, she became Chairperson Swapo Youth League in Northern Namibia (Ovamboland) and served until her 1973 incarceration for involvement in political activities as a member of Swapo and leader in the Youth League.
After her release in 1974, she left the country at the age of 22 to join other Swapo members in exile to fight for Namibia’s independence.
While in exile, Nandi-Ndaitwah served as a member of the Swapo Central Committee from 1976-1987. From 1976-1978, she was the Deputy Chief Representative of Swapo for Central Africa and Chief Representative for Central Africa from 1978-1980 based in Lusaka, Zambia.
She also served as Chief Representative of SWAPO in East Africa and the OAU Liberation Coordinating Committee based in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania from 1980-1986.
She returned home from exile in 1989 to the news that her 105 year old father had died four months earlier.
The 10th born in a family of 14 children, Nandi-Ndaitwah was born at Onamutai Village in the Oshana region.
“Growing up in a family of nine girls and five boys has taught me a lot about team work, respect for others, openness and not to be self-centred. These are aspects I still apply in my daily operations,” she says.
Besides Tanzania’s iconic leader Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, her late namesake Netumbo la Kanime and her father Reverend Petrus Nandi, her 90-year old mother, Granny Nekoto remains her source of inspiration.
“My parents have taught me not to bury my head in things I cannot change but to stay on course in times of challenges,” says Nandi-Ndaitwah.
She married Major General Denga Ndaitwah in Tanzania 1982 having met in Zambia where she was Swapo Chief Representative for Central Africa.
“One of my assignments in Lusaka was to receive Namibians going for scholarships or those coming from the front and transiting elsewhere. He tells me he started eyeing me there and began using his sister who became a friend of mine,” says the mother of three boys, Linekela Tate Nande (22), Ndelitungapo Hendrik (20) and Petrus Shindambi (19).
“Married to a person of any status or someone of national responsibility as my husband while I am a minister does not give me the right to fight to be the boss in the house. We have mutual respect and understanding for each other. We both accept the national responsibilities. There exist a trust and respect not only a trust of the other but of one’s self. The little time we get out of our official responsibility, we use it as family. I go out a lot with my husband; there are good outing opportunities in Namibia where families can spoil each other.
There are times when my husband and I have had to cross at international airports outside Namibia either him going in or myself going out. Our national responsibilities had an impact on our children being too young to understand. One day, we watched an advert on NBC which ended with the words, “Men, take care of your children”. One of my sons then responded by saying NBC should have said, “Ministers take care of your children.” That touched me a lot and told me how much attention my children crave from me and I have worked on it. I do my family laundry, cooking and other motherly activities whenever I am home,” she says.
A former netball captain during her school days at St. Mary’s Odibo, Nandi-Ndaitwah still follows netball and squash with passion. As a Home Ranger she is currently the patron of the Namibian Girl Guide Association.
Following a near political coupe during the Swapo Electoral College last year, Nandi-Ndaitwah insists she does not have enemies, “but there are people who feel that I am occupying their places because they don’t believe that there is enough space for all of us in Namibia. That is why others chose to use the Namibia Wildlife Resorts (NWR), to get me out. But I believe the truth can never be overpowered. It prevails, and I remain what I am,” she adds.
Besides tourism and her family, the closest thing to Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah’s heart is the equality between men and women as well as child welfare.
“I am disappointed in the National Assembly when the number of Namibian women went down. The lack of female representatives on this (2010) year’s regional elections should be more worrisome. I am more disturbed by persistent violence against women in this country. We continue to see women and young girls even babies been raped and murdered. It is unacceptable and as a nation we must do something our nation needs therapy.
Masters Degree in Diplomatic Studies, Keele University, UK (1989). Post-graduate Diploma, International Relations, Keele University, UK (1988). Post-graduate Diploma, Public Administration and Management, Glasgow College of Technology, UK (1987). Diploma in work and practice of communist youth movement, Lenin High Kosomol School, USSR (1976). PF