Remarks by President Cyril Ramaphosa on the occasion of the Third South Africa–Namibia Bi-National Commission Business Forum, Windhoek, Namibia, 13 October 2023
His Excellency President Dr Hage Geingob,
Minister of Trade, Industry and Competition of South Africa, Mr Ebrahim Patel,
Minister of Industrialisation and Trade of Namibia, Ms Lucia Lipumbu,
Members of the diplomatic corps,
Leaders of business from Namibia and South Africa,
It is my pleasure to join the business communities of Namibia and South Africa today.
Namibia and South Africa share a common culture and history, beautiful landscapes, and strong political and business ties.
We have common histories and must confront the common legacy of colonialism and apartheid, including substantial levels of poverty, inequality, unemployment and under-development.
And yet we are both resilient nations.
Our economic relationship, although strong, needs to be substantially deepened.
Our vision for the bilateral relationship is to move it into a higher gear.
Namibia and South Africa can use the opportunities presented by the African Continental Free Trade Area to position ourselves as an industrialising hub for the continent, focused on increasing our trade with the rest of the continent through a stronger partnership.
I wish to highlight four areas of partnership.
The first is on green hydrogen.
South Africa is in the process of considering and finalising a Green Hydrogen Commercialisation Strategy that seeks to unlock the opportunity for green hydrogen to strengthen our industrialisation efforts.
Namibia too is implementing its green hydrogen strategy.
We can either go it alone as South Africa and Namibia or we can position this part of the west coast of the African continent as a key green hydrogen region.
We have a number of strengths we can draw on, from abundant wind and solar resources to platinum. This means we can be a major exporter of green hydrogen.
We should now put forward a Southern African green hydrogen value-proposition, initially drawing in the three countries on the west coast, Namibia, Angola and South Africa, to provide green hydrogen to the rest of the world.
The second area of partnership is on developing cross-border value-chains to boost industrialisation and economic development.
Between our two countries, we have the key elements of success.
We have raw materials, ranging from critical minerals to agricultural raw materials. We have technology, capital, an increasingly skilled and educated workforce and infrastructure.
A number of value chains can be identified.
One of these relate to our use of critical minerals to ensure that manufacturing takes place on the African continent.
Africa has remained poor because we sell our raw materials to the factories of Europe, Asia and the Americas, instead of selling to each other.
There are opportunities for partnerships in areas such as green technologies, including battery manufacturing.
Another area relates to the use of agricultural raw materials.
To use the example of leather: instead of exporting raw hides and skins to other parts of the world, let us use our resources and capabilities to build a strong regional value-chain.
The hides can be processed through tanneries and then made into footwear, handbags, leather clothing and other products.
We can work together to identify opportunities in other value chains such as automotives.
By working together, we can identify commercially viable projects that are consistent with our policy frameworks and that have high levels of regional content.
Our industrialisation programme must be rooted in setting high African content targets. If we fail, if we settle for weak rules of origin, then we are simply facilitating the old economic model in which Africans do not advance.
We must therefore speed up our work on regional trade, through SACU, SADC, the Tripartite Free Trade Agreement and, of course, the African Continental Free Trade Area.
The AfCFTA gives us an opportunity to broaden our horizons and be more ambitious in our outlook.
I therefore welcome the decision we took today in the Bi-National Commission to request our ministers to explore and identify areas of cooperation for the development of cross-border industrial and automotive value chains.
Value chains need infrastructure, from simple border-crossing arrangements to transport corridors that facilitate trade.
Regional value chains require greater cooperation on trade facilitation and logistics and addressing non-tariff barriers that hinder the movement of goods across borders.
The third area of partnership is in promoting higher levels of investment in each other’s economies.
South Africa is a favourable investment destination, with strong regulatory frameworks, a well-developed financial services sector and favourable company tax regime, world-class infrastructure and an educated workforce.
I want to invite Namibian businesses who want to expand their operations to set up businesses in our country.
Similarly, South African companies can work with the government of Namibia and local business partners to set up operations here.
In order to boost investment, we agreed earlier today to request our ministers of trade and industry to work towards establishing a financing facility for industrial and productive development projects.
This includes cross-border value chains between Namibia and South Africa in the strategic areas of our respective economies.
The fourth area of partnership is in facilitating deeper private sector relations.
The Business Forum is an example of the platforms we must create to strengthen dialogue and stimulate joint ventures.
Namibian businesses must see benefits from the involvement of South African firms in Namibia, and vice versa.
I wish to welcome two key decisions we made at the Binational Commission today.
They are, firstly, to deepen cooperation to attract private sector investment in agreed areas of cooperation.
Secondly, to establish a South Africa-Namibia Business Council to serve as a public-private sector platform for coordinated and concerted actions.
I note with appreciation the outcomes of today’s Business Forum. Our Ministers will carefully study these outcomes and see how we can use the insights to help grow our economies.
We are greatly encouraged that the success of our Bi-National Commission is mirrored in the success of this Business Forum.
These successes provide confidence and encouragement for the further growth of the firm relationship between our two nations.
I thank you.
Issued by: The Presidency