INTRO: Namibia’s Ambassador to Ethiopia and the African Union, Monica Nashandi, talks to Desie Heita on the importance of having the private sector as key participants in the advancement of the African Union (AU) Agenda 2063, in the maintenance and financing of the AU, and how Namibia is aligning her development agenda with the continental agenda.
At the July African Union (AU) summit in Kigali, – hailed in the tweet by the AU chairperson as “the best summit we’ve had” – African leaders made an unprecedented and a far-reaching decision.
They imposed a 0.2 percent levy on all goods imported into the continent of Africa, as a means to raise funds that would finance the operations of the AU. The deadline to institute and implement the levy was set for 2017.
It is a decision that is meant to prop up the under funded AU but which, if it is to work efficiently, would ultimately need the buy-in of the private sector on the continent.
“There is no way we can make headway without the private sector involvement,” say the Namibian Ambassador to the AU and Ethiopia, Monica Nashandi.
The levy, according to the AU, is on all eligible imported goods into the continent to finance the AU’s operational projects, programmes and peace and security operations budget.
“While the specific mechanisms are being worked out, the amounts collected will automatically be paid by member states into an account opened for the AU within the central bank of each member states for transmission to the AU in accordance with the assessed contribution,” so decided the AU.
Ambassador Nashandi points out that already African governments have limitations of how much revenue they can generate because of hosts of inherent problems. These include weak economic performances of individual countries, and the turmoil in global market is not helping either, and the fact that many African countries have weak domestic tax collection systems. Hence their financial contribution to the AU would never be enough to sustain the organisation.
“At continental level, we have realises that unless we bring the private sector to the table we would not be moving at the pace we need to,” she says.
And this, the Ambassador says, would have to start at government level. “The private sector has to be brought to the table, because I think they may not come by themselves unless they are asked. We have to open up to the private sector. This is what we have to do, to have continuous engagement with the private sector,” she emphasises the point.
Nevertheless she says Namibia is making headway in aligning her development programme with that of the continental body. Particularly the Agenda 2063 which include touch on issues of integrated high speed train network; the Great Inga Dam developments; the single African aviation market; outer space studies for Scientists; the Pan African E-Network; the creation of an Annual African Consultative Platform; the establishment of the Virtual University; the free movement of persons and the African Passport; the Continental Free Trade Area; Silencing the Guns by 2020; and the development of a commodity strategy.
“Agenda 2063 tallies in with the Harambee Prosperity Plan, Vision 2030 and the national development plan. We are embracing it as a framework for development,” she says adding that the agenda has trade “as one of its flagship project.” And then there is the pursuing of continental free trade areas.
In Kigali the African leaders decided to establish a High Level Panel of five eminent persons of one from each region to champion the fast tracking of the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA), ahead of its proposed launch in 2017.
They also called on member states to “speak with one voice on all issues related to trade negotiations with third parties.”
The Ambassador highlights that implementation of such noble idea requires that Namibia look at “how we trade as a country, [assessing] if we are able to trade regionally.”
She also points out that one positive element of free movement of persons for Namibia is that the country, which lack specific skills, can benefit by having skilled expertise that is available in other countries on the continent.
The country’s energy generation woes can also be address by the development of the Great Inga Dam in Democratic Republic of Congo. “If we can join others in that project and get it off the ground,” she says of the Inga Dam development.
Namibia, which has had already contributed to many peace keeping missions, would also be required to do more in the settling of conflicts on the continent as part of the ‘silencing guns by 2020’ in Agenda 2063.
Ambassador Nashandi does caution though that regional integration and the free movement of people would have to be implemented with cautious. “Integration need to be handled with cautiousness, especially now that we live in the world of terrorism threats. We have to be cautious not to attract what we do not need,” she said.
Ambassador Nashandi re-joined the diplomatic service after a five-year reprieve, a time she spent working as an executive in the private sector. Prior to that she served as the Namibian Ambassador to Scandinavian countries and, her last appointment, as High Commissioner to UK. She was appointed back to the diplomatic service last year, and, she says, dived right back into the diplomatic service, being a seasoned diplomat who started at a very young age as Swapo representative to the UN.