There is not a cloud in the sky over France’s relationship with Namibia. It still builds on the memory of the commitment made in 1980 by France to support SWAPO’s struggle for independence. In addition to our Embassy in Windhoek, France also has a free-standing Alliance française branch in Namibia, situated in Swakopmund. The Franco-Namibian Cultural Centre (CCFN) in Windhoek is a key institution in our cultural action.
The French President Jacques Chirac made a State visit to Namibia in 1998. President Hifikepunye Pohamba made an official visit to France in 2007 and met with the President of the French Republic in Nice in 2010 (during the Africa-France Summit). President Hage Geingob made an official visit to France in November 2016.
The Namibian Minister of Environment and Tourism was received by the French Minister Delegate for Development in October 2012. Having become Namibian Minister of Foreign Affairs, she represented Namibia at the Élysée Summit for Peace and Security in Africa in December 2013.
Three French Ministers have visited Namibia in the last ten years: The Minister of Transport, Mr Gilles de Robien, in December 2006; the Minister of State for Cooperation and Francophonie, Mr Jean-Marie Bockel, in September 2007; and Ms Ségolène Royal, Minister of Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy, in August 2015. A delegation of French Senators from the France-Southern Africa friendship group spurred on exchanges between the two countries’ parliaments with a visit to Windhoek in September 2013. The Speaker of the Namibian Parliament was received at the French Senate in 2015.
Namibia supported France’s intervention in Mali, and has provided $1 million to the trust fund for the African-led International Support Mission to Mali (AFISMA).
French investment in Namibia has been marked by the very large investment by Areva to operate the Trekkopje uranium mine (approximately $1 billion, the largest investment ever in Namibia). The project was, however, mothballed in October 2012 because of low uranium prices. Other uranium mining projects are however developing in the country. The Husab uranium mine project, for example, led by the Chinese company Swakop Uranium (owned 90% by Taurus Minerals Limited of Hong Kong and 10% by the national company Epangelo) is developing further. Bilateral trade is modest. Our exports total around €20 million per year (subject to major increases in the event of large contracts). These figures do, however, need to be taken carefully, as certain products destined for Namibia are registered as being exported to South Africa. Our imports amount to around €120 million per year, mainly uranium and farming products.
A MEDEF delegation visited Namibia in October 2012, with the following companies: Alstom, Bolloré Africa Logistics, EDF, Groupe Cahors (utilities), Nexans (cables) Saint-Gobain PAM (for pipelines and water transport), Solairedirect, and VINCI Construction Grands Projets.
On the sidelines of COP21, a memorandum of understanding was adopted in December 2015, providing for the provision of a parcel of 8000 hectares for the construction of a 150 MW wind farm by the Franco-Namibian company InnoSun, in addition to a protocol between the Namibian Government, InnoSun, EDF Energies Nouvelles, and the Chinese CGN, aimed at pursuing the development and transition to wind energy in the majority of the country.
A Partnership Framework Document (DCP) was signed on 12 September 2007, setting out France’s desire to commit alongside Namibia (grants and concessional loans over 5 years for an indicative amount of between €113 million and €130 million). This Partnership Framework Document expired in 2011.
While the promotion of cultural diversity (the Franco-Namibian Cultural Centre has become a benchmark) and the teaching of French are two long-standing areas of French cooperation, France has also worked in the governance sector in recent years, support for decentralization, training of civil servants, police cooperation and the Namibian Ombudsman. We thus provided decisive support for the creation of the Namibia Institute of Public Administration and Management (NIPAM).
The French Development Agency (AFD) has been active in Namibia since 1998. In 2008, it participated, alongside the European Investment Bank (EIB), the German development agency (KfW) and the European Union, in the financing of the regional interconnection of the Caprivi Strip, which joins the electricity grids of Namibia and Zambia, through a loan of €35 million. AFD granted an ARIZ risk-sharing portfolio to the First National Bank (FNB) of Namibia in late 2010, with a sum of more than €2.5 million now committed. The renewal of the risk-sharing portfolio is currently being negotiated with the FNB. Moreover, a first risk-sharing portfolio is currently being studied with the Bank of Windhoek.
The French Global Environment Facility (FFEM) is also providing funding of €1.4 million for a €12 million project to evaluate biodiversity and for the introduction and translocation of species. It also supports the Orange-Senqu River Commission (ORASECOM) with €1.5 million, along with the Bank of Windhoek.