9 November 2012

Namibia: We Should Benefit From Trade


MILLIONS of Africans celebrated this week's re-election of Barack Obama as President of the United States for his final four-year term. Large screaming headlines across the continent gave the notion that in Obama's presidency is Africa's Messiah.

The present euphoria is reminiscent of the expectations that were created when Obama secured his first term in the White House. Now sceptics of the American President want Obama to atone for whatever material gains he failed to appropriate to Africa in his first term in office. Besides his Kenyan roots, why are we as Africans so fascinated with this US President?

What do we as Africans expect Obama to do for Africa that is fabulously endowed with platinum, gold, diamonds, uranium coltan, copper, zinc, silver, iron ore, coal, crude oil, water, and millions of hectares of virgin farmland?

Africa is often referred to as the so-called "poorest" continent on the planet when in fact it is the richest continent in terms of natural resources and it still has so many undiscovered natural resources. However, the challenge that remains for Africans is to take advantage of these resources to develop Africa's economies and its infrastructure for the benefit of all Africans and those in the Diaspora. As Africans we should proudly take ownership of our economic destiny as we did when we fought and prevailed over colonial and imperial forces. It is time we discarded those begging bowls shamelessly asking for handouts from the First World countries that have their own problems.

We should embrace the principle of being serious trade partners who should be treated on equal terms.

Namibia alone has a wealth of natural resources including diamonds, zinc, copper, gold and uranium, which are the primary sources of foreign exchange earnings.

As you may know, trade policy initiatives by the United States government have been developed to assist sub-Saharan African countries bolster their economic growth and development through trade.

Utilising programmes such as the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), the African Global Competitiveness Initiative and various others, the US administration has sought to stimulate economic growth and competitiveness in the sub-region by promoting free markets, expanding US trade and investment in the region and facilitating the region's integration into the global economy. In fact, earlier this year President Obama designated 40 sub-Saharan African countries to be eligible for AGOA benefits.

Last year, the US imported US$65 billion worth of goods from Africa, with oil and petroleum products being the dominant products. US exports to Africa amounted to US$17 billion, with the dominant products being aircraft and aircraft components, automobiles and automobile parts.

Currently, Namibia's major exports to the US include uranium, diamonds (uncut, unmounted), and frozen seafood. However, furs, skins and collectibles also feature significantly, and the US also represents a large and largely untapped market for tourism and tourism-related services.

Namibia is currently the US's 117th largest goods trading partner (exports and imports) with US$574 million in total goods traded during 2011. US goods exported to Namibia last year totalled US$137 million, up 23.6 per cent from 2010. Last year Namibia was rated the 97th largest supplier of goods imports, with US goods imports from Namibia totalling US$436 million. This represents an increase of over 120 per cent compared to 2010.

Imports to Namibia are dominated by South Africa (75% of the total) and the US is generally among the lower end of the top 10 trading partners with Namibia. Also, US foreign direct investment in Namibia is minimal.

Namibia still imports almost all of its consumer goods and most of its primary resources are exported, largely unprocessed. Therefore, ample opportunities exist to introduce new consumer goods and manufacturing investment for both local and international markets, specifically Europe and the United States.

When visiting Ghana last year, President Obama said: 'I see Africa as a fundamental part of our interconnected world' as partners with America on behalf of the future we want for all our children. That partnership must be grounded in mutual responsibility and mutual respect.'

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