15 June 2018

Southern Africa: Geingob's "New Africa" Vision Can Inspire SADC

President Hage Geingob is billed to take over the SADC chairmanship in August, a move that grants him a chance to place on a trajectory his vision for the sub-region and Africa at large.

One such vision is what he termed a "new Africa", which he coined to mean that the continent has embarked on a new political dispensation, anchored on peaceful power transfers, regular free and fair elections and acceptance of their outcomes, and less violent regime changes.

He often preaches intra-Africa trade too. When he officially opened the 58th edition of the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF) in Bulawayo last year, Geingob urged SADC nations to abolish visas to promote trade and boost regional economic integration.

Under his leadership, Namibia has scrapped visa for all Africans holding official diplomatic passports and is in the process of scrapping visa requirements for all African passport holders visiting the country.

The country will soon start issuing African passport holders with visas on arrival at ports of entry as a first step towards the eventual abolition of all visa requirements for all Africans.

These are noble ideas which Geingob now has an opportunity to impress upon his peers on the continent.

The President will also have a broader platform to preach his vision for Namibia as a gateway, mainly through its growing ports, to the 300 million people in SADC region.

Namibia's small population has massive disadvantages when it comes to trade and investment opportunities, therefore we must think creatively to remain in competition with our peers in the world.

In accepting to become SADC chairperson, Geingob is thus equipped to effect change for both Namibia and Africa. His tenure could also serve as a test for Namibia's newly-revamped international relations policy.

Isolationism - a stance of national isolation by abstention from alliances and other international political and economic relations - is not a position Namibia should take in a world where economies are riding on each other for survival and prosperity.

Even major economies of the world such as the USA, France or Germany have alliances, economic and political, for they know too well that anything to the contrary would have irreversible repercussions for their people.

Therefore, the innuendos from some quarters this week that Geingob should have skipped hosting the SADC Summit this year, which would mean skipping the SADC chairmanship, are at best shallow and short-sighted.

Namibia is not an island on Jupiter but a member of a global village. Looking inwards and giving our peers a cold shoulder would thus only weaken our economy and curtain our influence in the international political arena.

At the founding of the OAU in 1963, Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie, the first chairman of the continental body, said: "Those men who refused to accept the judgment passed upon them by the colonisers, who held unswervingly through the darkest hours to a vision of an Africa emancipated from political, economic, and spiritual domination, will be remembered and revered wherever Africans meet."

Selassie's thunderous words make sense today as they did then. Hosting a SADC Summit comes at a cost, but the benefits to Namibia - including to local business - could outstrip such cost by a country mile.

After all, one must break eggs in order to make an omelette.

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