9 November 2012

Namibia: U.S. and Nation's Ties to Remain Unchanged

Windhoek — There will be no significant policy changes for Namibia following American President Barack Obama's re-election to a second four-year term.

U.S. Ambassador to Namibia, Wanda Nesbitt, made the remark this week during a breakfast discussion with the media on the just concluded U.S. presidential elections.

Nesbitt expects that programmes such as the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) Namibia, the United States President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), and the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) would continue unaffected.

She further revealed that since Namibia is viewed as an upper middle-income country, the five-year compact MCA-N programme is expected to come to an end in 2014. However, the decision by Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, to not be part of the president's cabinet for a second term could bring a fresh look at a whole range of foreign policies and recommendations that could be made with Clinton's replacement, according to Nesbitt.

She explained that it is procedural for the president and his cabinet to decide if members would like to continue serving for the second term.

According to Nesbitt, a year long process produced a strategy for sub- Saharan Africa which was looked at in June/July of this year by the White House, but it would be unusual for the Obama administration to go through that process so soon. A review of that strategy would depend on what is happening in the U.S.

On the other hand, head of the Department of Political and Administrative Studies at the University of Namibia (Unam), Phanuel Kaapama, is of the opinion that America's concerns over the significant inroads China has made in Africa could prompt the U.S. to focus on increased trade to offset China's growing influence in the continent. "It will depend on the shape of the American economy, however seeing that it is his last term, he [Obama] would be able to take the risk and do more for Africa," he said, adding that it is possible that the U.S. could renegotiate AGOA which is up for renegotiation in 2015 during his second term.

"He may introduce new initiatives that could benefit Africa and America," Kaapama said. However, Kaapama emphasised that American foreign policy is not something that anyone can change since it is usually based on the principle of continuity. He does not anticipate any significant foreign policy changes.

Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister, Peya Mushelenga, echoing the sentiments expressed by Ambassador Nesbitt said he does not foresee any significant changes in U.S. policy towards Namibia or Africa.

"Whether the succeeding president is a Democrat or Republican, there will be little of a paradigm shift," he said, adding that he also expects the U.S. embargo on Cuba to continue.

The deputy minister went on to say that constraints in the U.S. national inter-agency structure and the concomitant debates in terms of who controls who would shape the direction of foreign policy. "Changes in foreign policy would depend on the existing U.S. foreign policy framework," said Mushelenga.

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