THE signing of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement could facilitate Namibia's beef exports to the rest of the continent, but the red line in the northern part of the country must be removed for maximum benefits to be realised.
These were the sentiments President Hage Geingob expressed to the media at the Eros Airport on Saturday on his arrival from Nigeria and Mauritania for the African Union (AU) Summit.
"Our beef is demanded. But we don't have beef. We just talk about beef, but we don't have enough cattle. We have to open up the Red Line so we can have more beef," he said.
This is the first time the President has spoken openly about the removal of the controversial cordon fence that was erected as a disease control measure but has also resulted in the exclusion of communal farmers in northern Namibia from participation in lucrative beef exports. Among other outspoken critics of the fence is former agriculture minister John Mutorwa.
When asked if talk of the red line's removal was just rhetoric, the President said: "The opening of the red line is not a question of whether you want it or not. It is a question of a health situation, about our other markets.
"Unless you also address the other side in Angola; cattle are moving freely... if the Angolan cattle are not treated, they will bring the diseases. But it's a thing we must address."
According to Geingob, the situation cannot continue unabated whereby Namibia is divided by the red line, 28 years after independence.
The pest exclusion fence separates northern Namibia from the central and southern areas of the country.
Geingob said the possibility of exporting Namibia's beef and beef experts to Nigeria featured in his discussion with his Nigerian counterpart, Muhammadu Buhari.
Meanwhile the Namibia Agricultural Union says Namibia will send its first consignment of beef to the United States of America at the end of this month.
According to the union's latest newsletter, after a long process of negotiations, legislation and investigations to ensure thatthe Namibian meat industry and Meatco specifically meet all the standards, thelong-awaited exports to the US have now been realised.
"Meatco is expected to export its first consignment of beef to the USA at the end of July," said the union. Namibia is the first country in Africa to export beef to the US. Although approval for exports was acquired in 2016 already, labelling for exports had to comply with US requirements first.