Uaandja picks investment ‘A-team’

Critics bemoan duplication
New investment foot soldiers have been ushered into Namibian missions abroad.
Mathias Haufiku,Ogone Tlhage
The Namibian Investment Promotion and Development Board (NIPDB) has appointed five people tasked to secure investment opportunities for Namibia across the world.

Dubbed investment and export promotion attaches, the officials will be expected to vigorously push the board’s investment agenda, according to its foreign representation framework on foreign direct investment.

Namibian Sun can reveal that Hendrina Mboti (Cairo, Egypt), Theresa Sipiho (Pretoria, South Africa), Lwaba Jario (New York, USA), Albertina Andima (London, United Kingdom) and Tokkie Nchindo (Beijing and Shanghai, China) will from next month represent Namibia as investment attaches at their respective locations.

All five previously worked at the Namibia Investment Centre under the trade ministry before moving over to NIPDB. Their appointments were confirmed in a request letter authored by NIPDB’s CEO Nangula Uaandja in which she asked the international relations ministry to issue diplomatic passports and visas for the officials and their family members. Their appointments will be valid for four years.

NIPDB also expects the presence of the attaches to enable targeted investment promotion activities aligned to national priority sectors.

Duplication

Critics have, however, questioned the move, saying there might be elements of duplication in their appointments. Namibia currently has several commercial counsellors in the countries the investment attaches are being deployed to.

For instance, Petrina Nakale is currently serving as a commercial counsellor in Washington, about 400 kilometers from New York where Jario is headed to.

Mboti, who is headed to Cairo, is only a three-hour flight from Petrus Haufiku, who is stationed in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa as a commercial counsellor deployed by the trade ministry.

Andima, who is going to London, will be 350 kilometers from Namibia’s commercial counsellor in Brussels, Kleophas Sirongo. This is the same distance between Windhoek to Swakopmund.

Namibia is also represented in Germany by commercial counsellor Lucia Radovanovic. With Germany and Belgium sharing a border, this means Namibia has two commercial counsellors in neighbouring states. Brussels and Berlin are about 750 kilometers apart.

Investment crusade

Namibia has been on an investment crusade in recent years, spending millions to host investment indabas as well as attending global expos to sell Namibia as an ideal investment destination. Despite this, there has been little return on investment. Not even the multitude of bilateral and multilateral ties Namibia has with many countries are yielding the desired economic results.

NIPDB is hopeful that the investment attaches will intensify Namibia’s zeal to seal investment deals by attracting business. It is understood that the attaches will be sent off with great expectations to deliver, and unlike in the past where there was little reporting done, holding them accountable is at the top of Uaandja’s to-do list.

Commenting on the deployments, public policy analyst Dr Marius Kudumo said granting diplomatic passports to non-diplomatic staff creates a situation where any citizen feels entitled to one. “There must be an established protocol. Why are they entitled if they are not diplomats? What makes it different from me and you? The reason why there are laws is to create order, and if we operate outside the laws, then we are creating problems,” he said.

Local investment first

When asked whether Namibia was bearing the fruits of foreign direct investment from her many bilateral arrangements, Kudumo said Namibia must make efforts to draw local businesses to invest in the economy first. “Investment is a long-term thing, but obviously countries are looking inward. The message is self-reliance. Investors also have challenges where they come from. Let us look at domestic investments as a basis.”

According to former diplomat Tuliameni Kalomoh, Namibia will soon start benefiting from its international agreements.

“It is difficult to quantify, but I can see the atmosphere has improved greatly. It will take time to see long-term results, but we have to give it time.”