Windhoek - President Hifikepunye Pohamba and his South Africa counterpart, President Jacob Zuma today inaugurated the Bi-National Commission (BNC).
The commission forms the foundation of Namibia and South Africa’s bilateral programmes and agreements in line with the countries’ long-term national interests.
Over the years, bilateral co-operation between Namibia and South Africa had been conducted through the Annual Heads of State Economic Bilateral Meeting and the Namibia/South Africa Joint Commission on Defence and Security, which used to meet in South Africa and Namibia alternately.
Last year the countries signed the Agreement on the Establishment of a Bi-National Commission, which replaced the Heads of State Economic Bilateral Meeting.
Said Pohamba, "Today, I am pleased to announce that this inaugural session of the Bi-National Commission will elevate our relations to a new level of cooperation that will strengthen dialogue between our two Governments. I have no doubt that the Bi-National Commission will create a platform from which our people will further consolidate partnerships for economic growth and social development of our two sister countries and our fraternal peoples."
President Pohamba said it is imperative for both countries to intensify efforts towards fast-tracking trade and economic cooperation, especially in the area of Small and Medium Enterprises.
"Namibia recognizes the great potential that SMEs have in building the economy and as such, our Government has put in place mechanisms to assist these entrepreneurs. I would, therefore, like to call on both sides to form partnerships that will benefit our two countries and expand the industrial base of our respective economies."
He also called for a focus on increased exchanges in the fields of culture, arts and sport, as well as other forms of people-to-people contacts.
Added Pohamba, “Their Excellencies, the Founding Presidents Sam Nujoma and Nelson Mandela provided a solid foundation upon which our fraternal people continue to interact. It is our sacred duty to continue consolidating this strong foundation and transmit the spirit of “Ubuntu” to our future generations. I have no doubt that we will, through this engagement, focus on areas of common interest, especially in the fields of healthcare, education, tourism, energy, agriculture and mining, in order for us to build the human resources and strengthen institutional capacity in our two countries for the achievement of sustainable economic and social development.”
On his part, President Zuma said the BNC unlike other forms of partnerships between the two countries, broadens cooperation beyond economic areas to include political, social and security areas.
This, he said, was a natural progression as our two countries cooperate in a wide range of areas such as trade and investment, energy, agriculture, health, mining, transport, environment, tourism, science and technology, education, security, water, to mention but a few.
"The deliberations in this BNC should also contribute to taking forward regional integration and the promotion of intra-African trade, and in particular infrastructure development to ease movement of people and goods."
According to Zuma, South Africa is of the view that the African Standby Force, which is a key instrument of the African Peace and Security Architecture, should remain on track.
"We look forward to its full operationalization in the not too distant future.
But before that happens, it is important to have a temporary response mechanism.
We will be working together on these key initiatives Your Excellency, in both regional multilateral forums and in our bilateral engagements," said Zuma during his two-day State Visit to Namibia.