The newly accredited Nigerian High Commissioner to the Republic of Namibia, Dr Sunday George Sampson said the two countries (Namibia and Nigeria) were expanding and consolidating their relations by developing more mutually beneficial business links, adding that economic co-operation between Nigeria and Namibia was lagging behind political co-operation.
According to Dr Sampson, with open and prompt communication lines between the two countries, the cordial diplomatic relations between them can only grow from strength to strength, even though it has taken more time for the business relations to take off.
“I already feel at home in Namibia and during my meeting with the Foreign Affairs Minister, Utoni Nujoma, we reiterated
the need to encourage more economic relations between the two countries, because we need to consolidate the traditional political co-operation with more economic co-operation,” he says.
Namibia and Nigeria have strong diplomatic and political ties, which saw the Nigerian government playing a significant role in the Liberation Struggle of Namibia while Namibia is currently providing a hospitable home for Nigerian nationals.
Nigeria provided support for the revolutionary movements in the southern African countries in the struggle for freedom in the 1980s, although the brotherly relations are yet to mature into major mutually beneficial business ventures.
Dr Sampson further says that Nigerian’s contributions to the Liberation Struggle in southern Africa made Nigeria be accorded the status of one of the frontline states in spite the geographic distance between west Africa and southern Africa.
Nigeria has been a partner with Namibia in capacity building. For example, Nigeria redeploys science and mathematics teachers funded by Nigeria under the Technical Aid Corps co-operation agreement between the two countries to teach in Namibian schools for a two-year term, continuously being replaced by subsequent groups.
He indicates that a process is underway, whereby Nigeria will in the near future deploy eight professors to the University of Namibia in the fields of medicine and engineering to lecture in the two faculties.
“Nigeria has partnered with Namibia in capacity building and apart from the political co-operation, we also want to move towards economic integration. I can add that we intend to resume negotiations on setting up a joint oil refinery at Walvis Bay. We have had over 320 volunteer teachers sent by the Nigerian government to work in Namibia in the past and we will continue to co-operate with our African brothers in any other way,” says Sampson.
Last year, Nigeria and Namibia signed a Technical Assistance agreement to bring in experts to train Namibians in certain skills, such as carpentry, tailoring, micro-finance, agriculture as well as small scale and medium enterprises (SMEs) development among other sectors, in order to address youth unemployment and this is most likely to continue.
“This year, we have about 13 Nigerian volunteer teachers who will be heading back home after serving their two-year tenure in Namibia. Plans are underway to bring more Nigerian volunteers to replace the outgoing group,” he says.
He adds that while relations between African countries were rooted in liberating the continent from the yoke of colonialism, there is great need for the countries in the continent to start looking at avenues that promote economic emancipation for their citizens.
“Trading within African countries will also go a long way in enhancing integration, which is in line with the African Union (AU) agenda and will also promote free movement of people. Even though governments are still to fully implement the instruments for the movement of people between countries, more often than not, most African citizens link up in business by voting with their feet,” says Sampson.
Sampson adds that the Namibia-Nigeria Joint Commission has created a bigger and better platform for the two countries to engage and map out the way forward in bringing the two countries closer.
Although the two countries do not have the statistics of how much business is done between them, the Nigerian High Commissioner argues that cementing of trade relations between Namibia and his native country is a positive step towards consolidating south-south trade relations, boosting intra-African trade.
“We obviously believe that if we start making decisions in unison as African countries, we will be heard by those we engage with. On issues like Economic Partnership Agreement, we believe, the many, the better.” he says.
He adds that although the diplomatic negotiations intended to cement stronger business links take longer to complete, the citizens of the two countries have already breached restrictions of movement and are moving freely between the two countries.
Sampson also notes that the second biggest African economy has done extremely well in creating self-sustenance of its people, adding that Namibians can take a cue from the west African country.
In terms of combating unemployment, the Nigerian High Commissioner adds that the issue is not entirely a Namibian problem, recommending that the country can also start investing more in the informal sector like Nigerians do.
“Issues like unemployment cannot be tackled in a day but they have to be planned for, in the long run. As a country, we are always willing to offer advice to our African brothers,” he says.
He further asserts that in 2009-2010, the Bank of Namibia granted a temporary licence to a Nigerian bank to set up its branch in Windhoek. Although the Nigerian bank failed to open a shop in Namibia within the period, due to reorganisation in the Nigerian banking system, he intends to revive banking co-operation during his tour of duty.
During his tour of duty, he says that he intends to pursue these aspects of both countries’ relations.
In terms of achievements, the High Commission has obtained the co-operation of the host country in renaming the street where the mission is situated, Gen. Murtala Muhammed Avenue.
In capacity building, every two years, science and mathematics teachers are supplied to Namibia. In terms of the technical assistance agreement between the two countries, 16 Nigerian experts are currently serving under this agreement.
The High Commission has also been able to get its home government to make a donation of US$500 000 for the flood victims. It has also donated books to the Namibian Institute of Public Administration and Management (NIPAM) apart from donating books and computers to some schools.
“Diplomacy is often described as a continuous dialogue between states. During my tenure, I intend to continue dialogue with the host authorities to deepen the excellent relations existing between our two countries,” he concludes.