The Free Trade Alliance San Antonio (FTSA) welcomed his Excellency, President Hage Geingob of Namibia to speak with key energy, gas and oil executives at The Plaza Club on Friday. During his 24-hour visit to San Antonio, President Geingob delivered a preview of his United Nations address at the University of the Incarnate Word, demonstrating the importance of democracy to Namibia’s social and economic development, which he hopes to expand through foreign investors.
This marked the President’s first visit to the city, just six months after Windhoek (Namibia’s capital) and San Antonio signed a “Friendship City” Agreement. That partnership will continue in October, when potential economic and medical investors meet with city officials. Mayor Ivy Taylor will also visit the President sometime in 2016.
The FTSA represents local businesses including: Greenstar Recycling, Brooks City Base, Landis, CPS Energy, Mission Solar Energy, Valero and the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce – which are interested in international investment opportunities.
“What a historic event this is for San Antonio,” said Pat Frost, Chair on the Board of Directors. “We’ve had a country for over 200 years and a freedom we take for granted; to meet someone who was exiled for his country for 27 years and then came back is just extremely inspiring.”
Geingob was exiled for his political activism with the South West Africa People’s Organization (SWAPO), which sought independence from South Africa. He returned in 1989, leading the party to Namibian independence in 1990. He was then elected as Namibian Prime minister until 2002. He returned to the Prime minister’s office in 2012 before being elected as President in 2014. His years of service and representation have been credited with making Africa a more democratic country and an attractive partner in the global economy.
Geingob expressed appreciation for his warm welcome, and remarked that he looked forward to visits with San Antonio officials and partnerships with local industry leaders in the future.
“This is a country by law, that abides by the Constitution,” Geingob said, comparing Namibian’s modern government to democracy in America. “Now we have processes, elections and constitutions.”
Namibian staff played a video for investors, highlighting the region’s rich natural resources and trainable workforce as a lucrative social and economic investment.
Despite the country’s high GDP, the majority of Namibia’s population suffers from poverty and a lack of food, shelter and modern infrastructure. Geingob has already declared a “War on Poverty,” but he believes the key to Namibia’s future success lies with foreign investors.
“I ask the people, ‘Do you eat diamonds? Do you eat Uranium?’ No, but there are people who need these things and they will come,” Geingob said.
Namibia’s diamond industry has been established for more than 200 years, with the United States making up 42% of the world market. The country has immense mineral resources that include copper, gold and silver but they lack energy resources.
Economic leaders hope to expand their independence and trading capabilities through mining, energy, oil and gas exploration. Namibia seeks energy independence through renewable resources. The country is still highly dependent on its neighbor countries for energy, counting on Angora for the majority of its hydropower.
Obeth Kandjoze, the Managing Director for the National Petroleum Corporation in Namibia was present to discuss the current state of energy in the region. He argued that Namibia’s oil and petroleum fields have existed for more than 40 years, but high technical costs have prevented resource development.
Kandjoze also noted that Namibia relies on a single-buyer model for electricity, which means it distributes energy and then trades in energy.
“We have all our eggs in one basket as it were; it’s a bit of a risk,” Kandjoze said. “Our economy has grown fifteen-fold since 25 years ago. The model no longer fits the trend we are in, and something must be done.”
Energy officials hope to increase their number of megawatt output by next year, through technology, funding and alternative energy sources.
“I’m seeing a lot of value in exploring the solar energy, and I’ve been speaking with CPS representatives to harness that energy, “Kandjoze said. “I wish I could stay another day.”
CPS representatives extended an invitation to Kandjoze to discuss alternative energy options and ways to implement solar energy in Namibia.
Officials expect foreign investors will explore opportunities in the medical and tourism industries.
“We are open and welcome to any interest you may have in our country, especially tourism,” said Inge Zaamwani-Kamwi, who serves as the President’s advisor for constitutional and private sector affairs. “This is an undiscovered area, especially in the American market.”
Namibia has combined their tourism industry and cultural conservation to provide immersive experiences, even tours that include big game hunting to help maintain population numbers. The President’s staff is also working to set up business-to-business meetings between possible investors and the Namibian government in the future.
“Namibia is a gem in investment,” Geingob added. “When you come to Namibia you will be received with open arms.”
*Top image: Namibian President Hage Geingob adresses the crowd at the Plaza Club. Photo by Lea Thompson.