Did our principles cost us an advantage point?

When the African Peer Review Mechanism came into existence more than ten years ago, Namibia was one of the very few African countries, at that time, with a good rapport within the international community.

It was a beacon of hope for the rest of the continent, with its young democracy, good governance, a very good fiscal and monetary regime, and its year-on-year economic growth climbing steadily. Everything was going well for the country. It was one of the African countries that others looked with envy.

It is ironic, then, that the country decided not to accede to the APRM because it did not wish to be used as a point of reference for other African countries.

In hindsight that was a miscalculation on Namibia’s part, and Rwanda is the classic example of the opportunity lost to Namibia.

Today Rwanda is considered to be Africa’s, if not a global development success story. Having emerged from the indiscriminate 1994 genocide, Rwanda stunned the world by instituting policies that not only allowed the nation to arise from its ashes, but also which improved living standards across the entire nation, thus healing the wounds caused by tribal conflict.

The world, having had stood by while the genocide took place, was not sure how the country would move on. And impressed by such achievements, it went on to sing praises for Rwanda from mountaintops.

Cleverly, Rwanda, despite the on-going conflicts and unrests within the various parts of East Africa region, embraced such praises to take whatever advantages came her way. And everyone went to Rwanda to study this remarkable success story.

Could this not have been the same for Namibia decades ago, one wonders. Was it not better to be the first, to seize whatever competitive advantage available in being the first? Yes, it could be argued that the country might or might not have lost anything tangible. But it could also be argued that the country lost an opportune time in which it could have gained some variation of authority to steer and guide – if not dictate where need be – the continent’ development and governing issues such as NEPAD, for which we have always been a staunch supporter.
Be that as it may, congratulations to Namibia for becoming the 36th member of the APRM.

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