As we continue to celebrate our Silver Jubilee and the concomitant achievements of nationhood, the Ministry of International Relations and Cooperation will be featuring a series of media articles on selected foreign policy issues, the first one being importance of foreign trips.
Namibia’s independence celebrations in March this year was witnessed by 18 Heads of State and Government; 10 Former Heads of State and Government; the Chairperson of the African Union Commission and other representatives of Regional and International Organizations; Envoys representing Heads of State; Ambassadors; High Commissioners and Heads of International Organizations accredited to Namibia, as well as friends and supporters of our national liberation struggle.
All these guests converged to celebrate Namibia’s 25th Anniversary of Independence, democracy, peace and stability and to witness the entrenched tradition of peaceful transition through the inauguration of our 3rd President. The sum-total of all these activities have culminated in a momentum that we as a nation need to take full advantage of by continuing to reach out to our neighbours, SADC and AU Member States, as well as our international partners. We can only reach out by traveling to other countries or inviting our bilateral and multilateral partners to Namibia.
Foreign trips are publicly funded; it is, therefore, important to continue to inform the public about their essence. The rationale for foreign trips is manifold and it is worth the while to examine some of them. At the highest level, foreign trips are carried out by the Head of State, in this case, His Excellency Dr. Hage G. Geingob, President of the Republic of Namibia. These are either State or Official Visits, when our President is invited by his counterparts to either consolidate diplomatic relations or strengthen existing bilateral cooperation with a specific country. During such visits, official talks are held and agreements – or Memoranda of Understanding – for bilateral cooperation or for business linkages are negotiated and signed.
There are also courtesy visits, such as the ones undertaken by the President to Angola and South Africa, respectively, to introduce himself to his counterparts as our new President. As brief as these visits were, they are important foreign policy undertakings as they cement the longstanding relations that exist between Namibia and our northern and southern neighbours. The President is further expected to undertake courtesy visits to other neighbours in the SADC region in the immediate future.
The next level of foreign trips is when the President attends statutory meetings of the regional and international organizations such as SADC, AU, United Nations, Commonwealth and South-South Summits. Examples of these are the SADC Extra-Ordinary Summit on Industrialization, the recently concluded AU Assembly in Johannesburg and the subsequent ones that are scheduled to be held later this year.
The importance of these trips is underlined by Namibia’s participation in making decisions that affect her citizens. The level of participation is imperative as it impacts on the influence Namibia will have in the process of making these decisions. Another important aspect of these foreign trips is the opportunity they afford for networking. For instance, when the President attends a Summit, apart from participating in discussions of issues that affect the collective of SADC/AU/UN Member States, he also makes the time to discuss bilateral issues between Namibia and selected countries, on the margins of the substantive Summit or Conference.
As we continue to aggressively promote the policy of Namibia’s economic diplomacy, the President may also initiate business trips to enhance marketing Namibia as a preferred business destination.
Notwithstanding the advancement of connection with communication technology, of late we have witness an increased need of direct contact at the highest level of government. This is demonstrated by increased organized summits in different emerging issues both of economic and social nature. For example, the AU changed from one summit to two summits a year.
At the same time different multilateral summits are emerging i.e EU Africa -Summit, China-Africa Summit, USA - Africa Summit etc. Similarly, Summits to address specific issues are being organized, for example, this year alone we are expecting a global summit on Ebola to take place in Malabo during July 2015 and the summit on Financing for sustainable development to take place in Addis Ababa , Ethiopia. All these demand for political commitment at the highest level of government. The benefits of countries' participation may not be immediately visible but in the long run, are tangible.
In all these undertakings, the President is supported chiefly by the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of International Relations and Cooperation. When business contacts initiation and marketing are mentioned, one should not exclude the Ministry of Industrialisation, Trade and SME Development, given his core functions and NDP priorities. States operate in a competitive and ever changing international arena. As such, Namibia cannot afford to isolate herself; we need to diversify our partners and markets and we can only do so effectively by continuing to undertake strategic, well-planned foreign trips and informing the nation about their outcomes.