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Country report: Spotlight on Namibia

25 May 2010

Increasing knowledge of alternative sentencing options for criminal offenders was one of the Commonwealth’s work programmes in this Southern African country

Some basic facts

Joined Commonwealth: 1990

Capital: Windhoek

Population: 2,102,000 (2008)

GDP per capita growth: 1.4% per annum (1990–2006)

Official language: English

Time: GMT plus 1–2 hours

Currency: Namibia dollar (N$)

Last elections: November 2009 (presidential and legislative)

Next elections: 2014

Head of State: President Hifikepunye Pohamba

Head of Government: The President

Ruling party: SWAPO

Independence: 21 March 1990

What is the recent political history in Namibia?

UN-supervised elections were held in November 1989. Ten political parties stood, including SWAPO, which gained 57% of the votes and 41 out of the 72 seats in the Constituent Assembly. In February 1990 Dr Sam Nujoma was elected by the Constituent Assembly to be the first president of an independent Namibia. Nujoma and SWAPO were returned to power in the 1994 elections. SWAPO won decisive majorities in the December 1994 elections, gaining 76% of the popular vote in the presidential and 73% in the parliamentary polls.

In late November 1998, parliament passed a constitutional amendment to allow Nujoma to serve more than two terms. Namibia’s High Commissioner to the UK, Ben Ulenga, resigned in protest against both the amendment and Namibia’s military involvement in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Ulenga later formed a new political grouping which was registered as the Congress of Democrats (CoD).

However, the elections in November/December 1999 produced a clear win for both SWAPO and President Nujoma. Official results showed that Nujoma received close to 75% of the votes cast in the presidential poll, while Ulenga took 11% and the Democratic Turnhalle Alliance (DTA) candidate Kautuuture Kaura 10%. In the parliamentary contest, SWAPO took 76% of the votes and 55 seats, with the CoD (10%) and DTA (9.5%) each taking seven seats and in contention to be the official opposition, until April 2000 when the DTA formed an alliance with the United Democratic Front (two seats) and assumed the role.

In 2001 Nujoma announced he would not seek a fourth term of office and, at its 2004 congress, Hifikepunye Pohamba was chosen as the SWAPO candidate for the presidential election in November 2004.

During 2003 the government proceeded with the redistribution of land on a ‘willing-buyer, willing-seller’ basis, as guaranteed under the constitution. When the programme slipped due to shortage of finance, it targeted some 300 under-exploited farms with foreign owners for compulsory purchase.

The November 2004 presidential and legislative elections were won in landslide victories by Pohamba (76.4% of votes) and SWAPO (75% of the votes and 55 of 72 seats). Ulenga received 7.3% of the votes in the presidential election and Kaura 5.1%, while in the legislative election CoD won five seats and DTA four.

How does the Commonwealth Secretariat help Namibia?

The following articles describe some of the Commonwealth’s projects, which aim to assist this country in Southern Africa. They also show how Namibia is helping other Commonwealth countries:

Case study (2009): Enhancing food security through aquaculture

Building inland and coastal fish farming industry in Namibia

What is the CFTC?

The Commonwealth Fund for Technical Co-operation (CFTC) is the principal means by which the Commonwealth Secretariat delivers development assistance to member countries.

One of the ways the Secretariat uses the CFTC is to place experts - from environmental economists to high court judges and law revision experts - in developing countries to help governments enhance public services in a variety of sectors.

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“Developing countries still have serious food and nutritional needs, and fish resources can play a vital role to meet such deficiencies,” says Md Ghulam Kibria. “Optimum use of aquaculture and fisheries resources can help meet protein deficiency, as well as increase food resources throughout the world.”

Mr Kibria of Bangladesh was posted to Namibia in October 2008 on a two-year assignment as an aquaculture adviser at the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources in Windhoek.

The Government of Namibia gives high priority to food security and poverty reduction, including through aquaculture, and Mr Kibria considers the country’s aquaculture potential to be “magnificent”. He adds, “Only about a third of available water areas are currently in use for aquaculture, and this is a high priority development area.”

Mr Kibria’s role is to promote sustainable aquaculture, including the establishment of marine food cultivation projects, which can eventually be handed over to local communities to run themselves as a means of livelihood.

He points out that Namibia’s primary and commercially viable species include hake, oyster, abalone, monkfish, horse mackerel, mussels, pilchard, orange roughy, deep sea red crab, rock lobster and Cape fur seals, all of which could be profitable for Namibian businesses and provide food resources for the country and its regional and overseas markets. These markets include South Africa, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Ghana, as well as Spain, Italy, Portugal, Japan, the USA and the UK.

The freshwater farming model now in place for tilapia and catfish, Mr Kibria says, can act as a model for other types of integrated aquaculture, including shrimp farming. This includes development efforts focused on the Caprivi, Kavango, Oshana, Erongo and Kunene regions.

“Aquaculture is an important source of food security, and can generate employment and investment, which will improve the livelihoods of local communities,” explains Mr Kibria. “The rivers that border Namibia and the coastal waters of the Southern African state offer many opportunities for the development of inland and coastal aquaculture projects into major industries.”

Mr Kibria is also working to strengthen capacity at the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources and, in general, to implement the National Aquaculture Strategy, including through training, attending international meetings and producing reports. At the start of his posting, he toured the country to get a hands-on overview of areas suitable for aquaculture. This overview involved identification of water sources and quality, as well as types of soil.

Mr Kibria’s work ranges from consulting with international bodies, including the World Fish Centre, the Network of Aquaculture Centres in Asia-Pacific, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the African Development Bank, to hands-on environmental impact assessment of potential fish farming sites around Namibia on behalf of entrepreneurs who are keen to start work on new aquaculture sites. He advises the Namibian Government on issues related to aquatic animal health, quality assurance and certification, as well as international trends and developments in the field, and potential investments by the private sector.

Mr Kibria’s role also involves enhancing Namibia’s teaching and research in relevant areas. Among other initiatives, he is facilitating the setting up of a laboratory to diagnose viral diseases at the newly inaugurated Kamutjonga Inland Fisheries Institute (KIFI), as well as assisting a newly established aquatic laboratory to become operational, and reviewing courses with an aquaculture element at the University of Namibia.

At the time of writing, he was providing the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources with advice on the establishment of aquaculture training and extension strategies for the Ongwediva Island aquaculture centre in north-western Namibia, which is under construction.

Mr Kibria will also work towards establishing a certification authority for Namibia’s aquaculture exports and introducing the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) system to ensure safe production, handling, marketing and distribution of finfish and shellfish. This system identifies potential hazards throughout the production process, as opposed to just inspecting the finished product.

All of these initiatives should help the government to establish a solid base for profitable, sustainable aquaculture.

“What Namibia needs is increased investment by the private sector. In order for the private sector to be actively involved in aquaculture production, it requires land and finance,” says Mr Kibria. “The Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources therefore calls upon regional councils to make land available to potential investors, and the Agribank and Development Bank of Namibia to make financing available to private investors in order to develop the aquaculture sector.”

In terms of background, Mr Kibria is a specialist in aquaculture development, with expertise in tropical and rural aquaculture development, community-based freshwater and coastal fisheries, fisheries planning and policy, conservation of aquatic biodiversity, training and participatory learning, as well as social and community development.

After studying fisheries and aquaculture in Bangladesh and Thailand, respectively, Mr Kibria began his career at the Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock in Bangladesh, and carried out research at the Bangladesh Agricultural University. Subsequently, he moved to Vietnam, where he lived for eight years, working first with the United Nations Development Programme, the FAO and the Asian Development Bank, and later with various private and government agencies, as well as civil society organisations. He also lectured at Hanoi Agricultural University. Mr Kibria was attracted to working for the Commonwealth Fund for Technical Co-operation (CFTC) by its development agenda.

“Most of my professional career has been focused on dealing with multi-sectoral development issues,” he explains. “The CFTC attracted me most as the ideal place where my professional vision could be attained. I enjoy working with a cross-section of people in a multicultural environment. The workplace here in Windhoek is a congenial environment in which to work, and my relationship with colleagues is excellent.”

Sharing practical, hands-on Asian techniques with various stakeholders has established a bridge of friendship and joint co-operation, adds Mr Kibria: “It gives me confidence and a sense of optimism about opportunities for gathering further knowledge and skills in the field of inland aquaculture and coastal fisheries, where I have been working for the last 15 years.”

For more information on Namibia, click here

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