Windhoek — A business delegation from Tabliz in northern Iran is expected today in Windhoek to finalise a contract that in a year's time could culminate in Iranian-designed tractors - for agricultural purposes - rolling off an assembly plant, either in Windhoek or Walvis Bay, bolstering employment.
This was revealed in an interview in Windhoek yesterday by Vahid Karimi, the Ambassador of the Islamic Republic of Iran to Namibia, who affirmed the visit of the CEO and his delegation of Iran Tractor Manufacturing Company as the outcome of a rendezvous that eventuated two months ago between the two countries.
"A delegation from Iran was here two months ago and they have seen the sites that could be allocated for that purpose. It could either be in Windhoek or Walvis Bay, but it all depends on the company to have the final decision. I think if everything goes well within a year we could have the first production of tractors in Namibia," enthused the Iranian ambassador to Namibia.
"My job as ambassador is to connect the people - as for the details, they are going to work them out when they meet," he said in response to a question on the number of jobs to be created and the magnitude of Iranian investment in the contemplated tractor assembly plant.
He was very optimistic: "The planned tractor assembly plant will help to create jobs and help in the transfer of knowledge and skills. In the agriculture area I am sure it will create lots of jobs."
Karimi noted the present administration of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is keen to boost trade and diplomatic relations with the 54 African countries, and in this vein he gave the assurance: "I'm trying to bring more Iranians here. As you might be aware, Iran's immediate neighbour is Europe, and many Iranian business people used to go to Europe but now the priority of my present government is Africa, so they are coming to African countries in big numbers where they are engaged in business. I give you the example - during the last year our trade with Kenya increased more than 150 percent, and in some African countries Iranian cars are produced and used as taxis."
Karimi was also quick to point out that youth unemployment affects both Namibia and Iran, the latter where oil and gas account for 80 percent of public revenue and that saw the Persian Gulf country, which is endowed with massive oil reserves, generate over US$135 billion in foreign reserves as of last December.
The Iranian ambassador feels the tractor investment has a multiplicity of benefits and should not be seen from a single dimensional viewpoint, as tractors are multi-purpose and could be used for fruit production, poultry production and many other agricultural applications.
"I do remember one word from President Hage Geingob - he used to say that if a country is not 'self-sufficient' in food production it is not independent, and he was absolutely right. I am happy that I am doing my duty to do something good for Namibian food production. It is very important," he said.
Another area of potential bilateral trade cooperation he singled out is the possibility of Iran importing beef from Namibia. He says the shorter distance from Namibia to Iran could make business sense to Iranian importers of Brazilian beef - a country that is much further.
He also commended "the very delicious Namibian hake" that he feels could be imported by Iran that has a population of 82 million, of whom 13 million are in Tehran, the capital city.
Iranian investors are also interested to set up a pharmaceutical plant, while Namibia could reciprocate by importing bitumen and asphalt for quality highway and road construction.
One of the setbacks he singled out in the bilateral relationship is that Namibia has not yet established an embassy in Tehran - and he jokingly said he is also the de facto Namibian ambassador to his country.