Last updated in March 2013
Since Namibia gained independence in 1990, particularly intensive bilateral relations have developed between the two countries. These are based on
- their shared colonial history (1884-1915) and Germany’s consequent special responsibility towards Namibia
- Germany’s active diplomatic support for Namibia’s independence as a member of the Western Contact Group within the framework of the United Nations since the 1970s
- close cultural ties with the more than 20,000 German-speaking Namibians
- more than two decades of enduring and substantial bilateral development cooperation worth over EUR 700 million, the highest per capita rate paid by Germany to an African country.
A milestone in German policy on Namibia was the German Bundestag’s 1989 resolution that underlined Germany’s historical and political responsibility towards Namibia. In another resolution dating from 2004, the German Bundestag remembered the victims of the colonial war and reaffirmed its intention to strengthen Germany’s good bilateral relations with Namibia. In 2007 the Speaker of Namibia’s National Assembly, Gurirab, visited Berlin and in 2008 German Bundestag President Lammert travelled to Namibia. Relations between the two countries’ parliaments have been further strengthened by the establishment of a Namibian-German Parliamentary Friendship Group, which visited Berlin for the first time in March 2013.
The special relationship between Germany and Namibia is also reflected in the numerous other high-level political contacts. High points are the visits to Namibia by Chancellor Kohl in 1994 and Federal President Herzog in 1998 and the visits to Germany by Namibian Presidents Nujoma in 1996 and 2002 and Pohamba in late 2005. Then Federal Foreign Minister Fischer visited Namibia in 2003.
In 2004, then Federal Economic Cooperation and Development Minister Wieczorek-Zeul attended the main ceremonies commemorating the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the colonial war. Her successor in office, Niebel, visited Namibia in February 2010 and August 2011. In April 2012, then Federal Minister of Education and Research Schavan was in Windhoek for the signing of a declaration to establish the Southern African Science Service Centre on Climate Change and Adaptive Land Management.
Namibia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Nandi-Ndaitwah held talks with Federal Foreign Minister Westerwelle and Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development Niebel during her first official visit to Berlin in January 2013.
Lively contacts are also maintained at federal state and municipal level, for example, the partnership between the city-state of Bremen and Namibia and the town twinning arrangements between Windhoek and Berlin and Bremen and Trossingen. Also worthy of note are the close contacts between parliamentarians, church groups, non-governmental organizations and scientists and academics from both countries.
In the first half of 2012, bilateral trade between Germany and Namibia stood at EUR 86.863 million, German imports from Namibia amounting to EUR 45.334 million and German exports to Namibia EUR 41.529 million. Germany’s principal imports from Namibia are copper, zinc, earths and stone, fish and fish products, meat and fresh fruit. Germany’s main exports to Namibia are machinery, food-industry and chemical products.
Tourism is a particularly important element in Namibia’s service exports: the more than 80,000 Germans that visit Namibia every year are by far the largest group of tourists from a non-African country.
Germany is also responsible for one of the largest foreign investments in Namibia: in February 2011 the Schwenk Group subsidiary Ohorongo Cement (Pty) Ltd was officially opened at a ceremony attended by the Namibia’s President, Prime Minister and numerous cabinet ministers. A total of approximately EUR 250 million was invested in the project. The plant provides some 300 jobs and has indirectly helped to create another 2,000 or so jobs in the region. With an annual production capacity of 700,000 tonnes, it is designed to supply large sections of the market throughout southern Africa.
In future, the Namibian government intends to protect this investment by imposing tariffs on cement imported from China.
The two governments are keen to step up bilateral economic relations. To this end, in August 2012 the Namibian Cabinet adopted a resolution that sets the course for the future. An investment promotion agreement and a double taxation accord are in force.
Bilateral development cooperation is an integral element and cornerstone of the special relations between Namibia and Germany, more than EUR 700 million having been provided for this purpose since 1990. German engagement is not confined to official development assistance but also typically includes a variety of private initiatives and activities by non-governmental organizations.
The ongoing aim is to support the Namibian government in its efforts to close the rifts that still divide Namibian society as the legacy of colonialism and apartheid with the resultant widespread poverty and high unemployment and to support the Namibian government’s policy of national reconciliation. Here, Germany and Namibia are working together in three priority areas:
- management of natural resources
- sustainable economic development
All of these key areas include vocational training measures. There is close cooperation here with the University of Namibia (UNAM) and the Polytechnic of Namibia in road construction and logistics and with the Namibia Training Authority (NTA), also in the area of road construction as well as agriculture. With HIV/AIDS threatening the country’s social and economic development at all levels, German development cooperation is helping its partners to do preventive work in the above-mentioned priority areas. In addition, special funding is being provided to promote renewable energy under the Initiative for Climate and Environmental Protection (IKLU).
As part of the Namibian-German Special Initiative, the Federal Government is promoting local development measures in those parts of the country that were particularly affected by colonialism. In 2012, the Special Initiative’s budget was increased to EUR 31 million. The choice of projects is closely coordinated with the affected communities and Namibia’s National Planning Commission is tasked with their implementation.
In Namibia, there are some 5,600 pupils learning German as a foreign language at more than 30 schools. Some 1,800 pupils receive German mother-tongue instruction at ten (private and state) schools. Besides supporting the DHPS as a German School Abroad, Germany promotes use of the German language in Namibia in a number of ways, including:
- support of the schools at which German is taught as a foreign language by the Goethe Centre
- seconding German teachers to two schools teaching German as a foreign language or as mother tongue, the Namib High School Swakopmund and the Delta Secondary School Windhoek
- integrating four Namibian schools – the DHPS, the Martin Luther High School Okombahe, the Namib High School Swakopmund and the Delta Secondary School Windhoek – into the global PASCH network of partner schools
- co-funding school exchange programmes and scholarships
- seconding a German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) academic teacher to the German Department of the University of Namibia (UNAM)
- further-education courses and programme offerings by the German broadcaster Deutsche Welle for the Namibia Broadcasting Corporation’s German-language radio programme.
Science and academia
Since 2004, the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear Physics in Heidelberg has been jointly operating the H.E.S.S. Automatic Telescope for Optical Monitoring to explore high-energy cosmic radiation on the central Namibian Khomas Highland plateau together with the University of Namibia (UNAM) and several European partners. The telescope was inaugurated in September 2012 at a ceremony attended by then Namibian Education Minister Iyambo. Germany is engaged in wide-ranging cooperation with Namibia’s two universities – the University of Namibia (UNAM) and the Polytechnic of Namibia – including the secondment of lecturers, university partnerships and joint institutions such as the Namibian-German Centre for Logistics, which was set up in 2009 as part of the Aktion Afrika excellence initiative and is run jointly by the Polytechnic of Namibia and Flensburg’s University of Applied Sciences. During a visit to Windhoek by Federal Education and Research Minister Schawan in April 2012, a declaration of intent was signed to set up a regional Southern African Science Service Centre for Climate Change and Adaptive Land Management (SASSCAL) in the Namibian capital. Germany is making a significant contribution of approximately EUR 50 million to its establishment.
The DAAD awards postgraduate scholarships in Germany for young Namibian academics as well as ‘sur place’ grants.
Since 1985, approximately EUR 1 million has been invested in Namibia under the Federal Foreign Office’s Cultural Preservation Programme: from restoration of the rock paintings in the Brandberg mountains to literary projects to document tribal traditions that have been passed down orally (San, Kavango hunters) to the preservation of German colonial architecture (the Estorff House, the Officer’s House at Warmbad and the Namibia Scientific Society House in Windhoek), which are regarded by both the Namibian government and the general public as part of Namibia’s own history and cultural heritage. A historical steam locomotive is currently being restored with Cultural Preservation Programme funding.
Germany and Namibia cooperate closely to promote sport. The German Olympic Sports Confederation (DOSB) regularly seconds sport experts to Namibia with Foreign Cultural and Education Policy funding, e.g. to conduct short-term projects to promote track and field athletics, basketball and women’s football. As part of long-term projects, two German coaches – one for football, the other for basketball – are working in Namibia to promote sport there on a lasting basis. The work focuses on promoting young people and training coaches and their deployment has been extended until 2013/2014. In addition, a number of Namibian coaches receive further training in Germany every year, the courses being held at the German Football Association’s Sports Academy in Hennef and at the University of Leipzig.