National interest, not 'brotherly pleas'

01 August 2019 | Columns

There is no doubt that China has become an essential development partner to our country. Recent investments in the mining sector have cemented this critical partnership. It is safe to say that the relationship between Namibia and China is closer than never before. It is a rapidly deepening trade, investment and growth relationship, which has also been frowned upon by many, including ordinary Namibians, who feel hard done by.

There has been a great deal of resentment among locals, who are not comfortable with some of the partnership arrangements with Chinese firms. Many have decried the fact that Chinese companies, contracted to do work in Namibia, are still importing labour on a large scale.

This is being done at the expense of many Namibians, who are languishing in poverty and sitting idly at home without jobs. Another issue that has been a bone of contention is the stinking attitude of some Chinese companies towards trade unions, amid various violations of workers' rights. However, as one of the fastest-growing economies in the world, China has a clear agenda of what exactly it wants to do with mineral-rich Africa.

One wonders if Namibia has an effective strategy in place as well, given our sluggish economy, which requires all the help it can possibly get.

Be that as it may, what is important now is not a 'brotherly plea', as suggested by economic planning minister Obeth Kandjoze, but a frank demand for Chinese companies to add the necessary value, including transferring skills to local communities. Every deal must be conducted based on the principles of mutual respect, equality and mutual benefit.

There must be a clear policy in place to help us protect our own national interest, instead of advancing the political and economic interests of the Chinese.

And the last thing we want to see is government leaders being apologetic when it comes to putting the interest of the country first. 'Brotherly pleas' must play second fiddle.

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