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Posted on Friday, 27 November 2015 11:00

Namibia Country Profile 2015: SWAPO's clean sweep

By The Africa Report

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Hage Geingob, the incumbent prime minister and ruling South West African People's Organisation (SWAPO) vice-president, was firmly confident of election as Namibia's first non-northern and non-Oshiwambo president on 29 November 2014.

Geingob will stick to his predecessor's pro-business policies, despite demands by the SWAPO Youth League – which will have more representatives in the new parliament – for faster land redistribution and curbs on foreign, but not Chinese, ownership of mines. To be representative of the party, however, Geingob's cabinet will try to blend experience with youth.

Thanks to additional support from his own Damara community of west-central Namibia, Geingob was on track to surpass the 75% share of the vote gained by outgoing head of state, Hifikepunye Pohamba, in the last elections in 2009, after receiving endorsement from Justus Garoëb, leader of the Damara-based United Democratic Front opposition party. Geingob was also expected to pick up votes from Namibia's second-largest ethnic group, the Ovaherero.

Majority hold

Under constitutional amendments approved in August 2014, Geingob will appoint Namibia's first vice-president after taking office in March 2015.This could be someone from outside SWAPO in an attempt to strengthen national unity.

Parliament was enlarged from 78 to 104 members to reflect population growth, but SWAPO was unlikely to lose its two-thirds majority. The Rally for Democracy and Progress (RDP), founded in 2007 and led by former SWAPO member Hidipo Hamutenya, is expected to be the largest opposition in parliament. The RDP calls for strong anti-corruption policies to fight poverty.

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The November elections were set to have a more level playing field. The Electoral Commission of Namibia, which the Supreme Court criticised for its management of the 2009 elections, has been reconstituted as an independent agency.

New provisions for electoral courts and tribunals should also improve the integrity of the polling. Economic growth could rise much higher as a result of increased diamond production, robust construction activities and expanded spending on infrastructure.

Although the current account deficit widened in 2013/2014 after rapid growth in imports, Namibia's overall balance of payments remained in surplus because of investment inflows.

Foreign debt is set to stay relatively low. However, the economy remains narrowly based and is always vulnerable to external shocks and commodity price fluctuations. Some protection is afforded by Namibia's rather diversified export mix, including diamonds, uranium, refined zinc and other minerals, fish, beef and manufactures.

Development boom

The principal aims of the current national development plan are to improve transport capacity and to diversify the economy through processing of natural resources. Geingob ally and trade minister Calle Schlettwein declared in 2014 that a diversified economy producing value-added and finished goods is the solution to the country's persistent problems of high unemployment, unequal income distribution and poverty.

A construction boom has been led by the development of three new mines – uranium at Husab, gold at Otjikoto and copper at Tschudi, together representing more than $2.5bn of foreign direct investment – along with the expansion of the harbour at Walvis Bay. The $2.5bn Kudu offshore gas-to-power project could provide a further economic boost.

Tullow was set to take a final investment decision on building gas facilities and pipelines to an 800MW power plant at Oranjemund, but in November it announced that it wants to sell its stake in the project.

Namibia Power had appointed Shanghai Electric and Siemens as preferred contractors in 2014. The economic bonanza promised by the development of a number of easily accessible uranium deposits remains largely on track, despite a slump in demand on the global market. The $2.2bn open-pit mine at Husab, 90% owned by China General Nuclear Power Group, is one of the largest mining projects in southern Africa, with targeted production of 6,800tn of uranium oxide per year, mostly destined for China.



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