It is a great pleasure for me to address such a distinguished gathering of eminent French captains of Commerce and Industry. At the outset, I would like to thank MEDEF for inviting me to interact with you this morning. Your Federation, has played a very significant role in France’s industrial and economic development.
Namibia, as a young nation, cannot develop in isolation. That is why we like to engage in mutually beneficial win-win partnerships with our international friends. It is for this reason that engagement with the business community is top a priority during our official visit here to France.
Yesterday, I engaged in substantive and positive talks with President Hollande. Our talks have convinced me that we share the same enthusiasm and desire to strengthen our bilateral cooperation. Your presence here today also reflects the interest that the French business community has in Namibia.
Namibia is a product of International Solidarity. Moreover, the birth of our Nation was midwifed by the United Nations. During the dark days of our liberation struggle we persevered due to the support and assistance from many of our allies and friends around the world. France was one of the key allies that Namibia could depend on during this first phase of our struggle.
As we are faced with what we refer to as the second phase of our struggle, namely economic transformation, we would like to once again join hands with our international friends to seek solutions to the challenges we face.
After a mere twenty-six years old, Namibia has made tremendous strides in establishing firm democratic governance architecture. Free and fair elections are regularly conducted in Namibia. So far we have had six such elections. I am already the third democratically elected president.
Namibia’s institutions are strong. Our judiciary is independent and the rule of law prevails. The media, the fourth estate is part of our nation building machinery and it certainly helps that they are regarded as the freest on the African continent according to Reporters Without Borders.
We are working hard to continuously strengthen our governance architecture. We believe accountability and transparency are important to increase trust levels between all stakeholders in a democratic society and in the world. As potential investors, we would like to assure that you could put your trust in the Namibian institutions and political system.
Namibia has a conducive environment for doing business. Our physical infrastructure is on par with the developed world. Our medical services and recreational facilities are available. We have a world class financial system. Our shopping malls, top hotels and lodges provide a high standard of living for investors who would like to live in Namibia.
On the continent, Namibia sets pace when it comes to macro-economic architecture. Some of the key indicators that attest to the strength of our macro-economic architecture include:
• Well contained debt in relation to GDP, with an Internal Default Rating of BBB- by Fitch;
• Robust economic growth, although there is slight slowdown in economic activity this year;
• Huge contractual savings in search of local investment opportunities; and
• A sound banking system that is rated number 22 in the world by the World Economic Forum.
When it comes to socio economic architecture, Namibia has made significant strides in 26 years. We have, for example, managed to reduce the poverty rate by 74 percent from 70 percent in 1993 to only 18 percent in 2015. This was achieved through deliberately channeling the bulk of budgetary allocations to our education, health and social protection systems.
We are aware that deficits remain in our socio economic architecture. These include access to decent shelter and sanitation. This presents an opportunity to investors, and we hope that there will be matchmaking between Namibian and international entrepreneurs on these important matters.
We strive towards a Namibia where there are no structural poverty traps; where no Namibian should die of hunger; so, we are aggressively promoting agro-processing industries to significantly improve and raise our agricultural production and ensure food security.
I believe that bilateral cooperation between our two countries will be greatly enhanced if you, the business community, play an active role in boosting relations through increased trade, investment and economic activities.
Namibia and France trade in a number of products, including, fish, food and beverages, minerals, petroleum products, chemicals clothing, live animals, pharmaceutical products. A total value of €25. 6 million worth of imports was sourced from France into Namibia during the year 2015.
We are delighted to see that a number of French companies are already doing business in Namibia. Their investments have created jobs and transferred technology and expertise. These include, for example, the development of the 4,5MW Omburu solar plant in Omaruru by InnoSun which was completed in April 2015. A second solar plant is being developed in Okahandja with a capacity of 4,5 MW by the same company while the company is also planning to set up a 150MW wind farm in one of our national park. Other investments by the French companies have been made in the tourism, mining, services and retail sectors.
We would like to encourage many more French companies to take advantage of their advanced technology and greater industrial know-how come and invest in priority areas such as transport infrastructure, affordable housing, agriculture and manufacturing.
As you have successfully done in France, we want to develop our manufacturing capabilities to become the backbone of our economy. We are, therefore, eager to learn from you about the development of labour-intensive industries. Our main focus is on value addition. We believe that by adding value to our natural resources, Namibia will be able to increase its industrial output and thereby increase its exports of finished and high quality goods to regional and international markets. For this purpose, we have developed the Growth at Home Strategy, which aims to place emphasis on commodity-based industrialization through the strengthening of local and national value chains. We welcome French technology, know-how and innovation to be partners in Namibia’s growth at home story.
We understand that foreign direct invest will not come in the country without a globally competitive business environment. We have made significant efforts to address a number of bottlenecks in the business environment, including removing the red tape and simplifying the business registration process. Most importantly, we have enacted the Investment Promotion Act that provides for among others, investor incentives and protection, as well as provisions of dispute resolution mechanisms in the event of a dispute over an investment.
The investment incentives introduced in key areas of our economy combined with the conducive macro-economic environment have enhanced the confidence of foreign investors to do business in Namibia. That is why we hosted a very successful Invest in Namibia International Conference this month. Some of you in this audience were also there and I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for attending that Conference. The participation of so many investors from around the world was a reflection of the confidence and trust investors have in our investment environment.
Namibia is intent on building a robust, and inclusive economy characterized by sustained growth. We aim to achieve this through partnerships with the business community of France, through the establishment of win-win partnerships. Let me end here since the French say, “Doing is better than saying.” I have said enough and now it is time to do business.
• This is the statement by President Hage Geingob at the Movement of the Enterprises of France (MEDEF) in Paris on 29 November.