Outgoing German Ambassador to Namibia Christian-Matthias Schlaga (CS) was this week's guest on NBC show One-on-One to chronicle his work in the country and the general relations between the two nations. He spoke to NBC's Yarukeekuro Ndorokaze.
Yarukeekuro Ndorokaze (YN): Since Namibia's independence from 1990 up to present day, Namibia and Germany have enjoyed that special relationship, what is the basis of the relationship?
Christian Schlaga: Well it was determined already by a resolution of the German Federal Parliament surely before Namibia independence - where it was stipulated that the German government is supposed to develop a very specific and a specifically strong partnership with the newly born Namibia, to which the German government has contributed quite a bit before independence to make sure that Namibia does become independent.
Therefore, we celebrated Namibia's independence incidentally together with Germany unification, it is the same year - so we can look back to almost thirty years of various specific development in Germany, in Namibia as well as between the two countries.
And the Bundestag resolution has also caused strong attention to the fact that Namibia does have a very strong German-speaking population which of course from the perspective of the German ambassador is a very important element and therefore have used all the various avenues to develop our relations being in culture, being in development cooperation, being in business or in politics.
YN: One was supposed to look at evidences to these specific special relations you are referring to - where can that be seen so many years down the line?
CS: I think there are mainly two areas, one is indeed the fact that we have such a large German-speaking population, therefore we have very broad country relations with Namibia anchored with the German-speaking population but going far beyond.
During my ten years, one of the highlights was definitely the opening of the Goethe-Institut, which was called Goethe Centre and two years ago was turned into Goethe-Institut led by a professional sent from Germany to lead this institute.
This institute goes way beyond just only the German-speaking community, it covers many... others actors and aspects and fields of cultural cooperation.
And together with the Goethe-Institut we have worked together over the past years and for example we have interviews for the first-time something that we call the Day of the German Language, we have celebrated it twice -raising awareness about German being a foreign language as well as a mother tongue because we have experienced over the years a great and growing interest among Namibian youth to learn German.
This is irrespective of previous rations which the youngsters might have to the German language or not but we have discovered that German does actually offer additional opportunities in business for their own future.
YN: Now, cultural exchanges entail that it comes from the German side as well as Namibian side - have we seen Namibian cultures and languages also infiltrating within Germany?
CS: Culture definitely yes, there have been numerous cultural groups going to Germany via official arrangements or even on a private basis ... different cultural group mainly singing, choirs have gone to Germany and perform there with a lot of success. Only during my tenure, I don't know the number but we have seen many ... groups going to Germany and they are being taken care of by German organisers, organising wonderful tours through most of the country.
YN: And attempts to have Namibian languages also there?
CS: For Namibian languages it will rather be Namibian Embassy in Berlin or Namibian cultural organisations to take this into Germany, just like the Goethe-Institut here.
YN: The Namibian-German Special Initiative (NGSIP) was also carried out, what are the successes and achievements around that?
CS: German-Namibia special Initiative is of course a very specific programme which has implemented a great number of development cooperation projects, projects to increase the life standard in specific areas.
It was one of the projects initiated by the then German Minister of Economic Cooperation in 2006, it was signed in 2006 - it was a slow process to get moving but we managed in fact over the years to come to implement more than 200 smaller individual projects in various areas of the country, mainly in those areas which are still inhabited by the descendants of the previously mainly affected communities from the colonial days.
We closed this programme one-and-a-half years ago after having spent EU$36 million - much more than we envisaged; we planned for EU$20 million over the years; additional needs were identified, additional projects came into the scheme. Now we are done and we have closed the project.
YN: Do you do follow-up assessments to see whether the projects you initiated are still ongoing and how the projects have uplifted the living conditions of those who benefited?
CS: It is a mixed picture as always in life... because of the great verity of the various projects. Not every single project has lived up to the expectations which we originally had.
But most of them have, we have had a huge evaluation process which is about to be closed but what I can say now is that most of the projects can be considered as success in the sense that there are new activities which have not been there before in respective villages, communities using the opportunities that have been put there within the framework of this project.
Nonetheless, we feel some others should have been watched maybe a little bit more carefully but this is the general result of such a huge project.
YN: And that's my following point, where there has not been success, how are you going to follow up to ensure that is enhanced?
CS: Well this is going to be difficult because the programme has a set amount of money and that has been spent, so it was considered by both governments that this project is done, finish.
So if there is some project that has not lived up to the expectations of everybody then we have to see whether in future, yes, whether we can pick this up again and that depends on the individual community as well as the Namibian government, whether there is something which they will like to bring again in the agenda of our bilateral cooperation or not.
YN: Alright ... during your time here, what are those specific economic areas where assistance has been targeted or channelled to?
CS: Within the development cooperation we had a wide angle of activities. There are two major ones - the management of natural resources in a wider sense and we focus in particular on the infrastructure development of national parks.
This is for a very simple reason because we see a huge potential for various purposes; huge potential if we make these parks more living, more accommodating; a huge potential for creating jobs - as well as for income generation because a well maintained park with good wildlife is a huge attraction for tourists.
When we talk about tourists, almost 130 000 Germany tourists alone come to Namibia every year and they mainly look for the incredible wildlife of this country.
So if we can contribute and help the Namibian government to maintain these natural resources and manage them on a long-term basis then this is a very contribution to the economic development, social development on the ground because this takes place in places where hardly anybody else really invested because it is very... remote, so that is one thing which we attached a great importance to and together with the Namibian government we have spent a lot of money.
YN: Have I ever seen your involvement in the energy sector?
CS: Yes to a lesser extent it is now, during the early years we were quite active in the energy sector actually - for example Ruacana water power project, electrification plant; only recently we inaugurated the new generators which have been put into the existing scheme with the help of German Development Cooperation KFW money.
If you go to the Zambezi, you will see a huge powerline running parallel to the street which was also financed some years back through German Development Cooperation.
YN: Why has assistance there reduced given that the region is facing power shortages
CS: Well of course we cannot maintain every single sector at the same level over decades. So, in line with the new priority set by the Namibian government we have also shifted our main points within the scope of our bilateral cooperation.
So, today we have natural resources management which is a very big one, it entails the parks much more.
We have infrastructure still, we still finance roads - I have assisted in the inauguration of a number of roads in this country, fitter roads; smaller roads but also larger roads like the dual carriage road between Windhoek and Okahandja is financed among others also by Germany.
In the south we are talking about another main road leading to the South African border - so infrastructure is still on the agenda to a larger extent.
YN: Earlier on we spoke about the good relationship and the assistance that has been coming forth to Namibia but as far as travelling is concerned, one hears reports of Namibians travelling to Germany and when they get to Frankfurt the treatment that they get there is something that does not leave them very impressed, why is that the case?
CS: Well first of all I will dare to question the statement because I know about the complaints and am following up on the complaints - I mean you might know I also travel to Frankfurt frequently and I always try to observe without the German police observing me how they do their work - and I could not find any confirmation for the complaints that specific people [blacks] are treated in a different way. I could not find any event where this was the case.
The German police control blacks, whites, whoever comes from the planes and I observed this many a time deliberately, without them knowing who I am, I just wanted to see whether this is correct.
YN: Have you heard reports of Namibians overstaying in Germany?