Minister of Trade and Industry Calle Schlettwein has said trade bilateral engagement with Zimbabwe which culminated in the signing a new Memorandum of Understanding last week will cement a unified Sothern African Development Community (Sadc) region.
Despite Zimbabwe and Namibia being key members of the Sadc region and have chaired the rotational regional board, they are also keen supporters of a unified customs union and eventual uniform currency in the region that would improve cooperation in trade, politics and infrastructure development among the 15 member states.
Although Zimbabwe and Namibia enjoy cordial political, trade and social engagements the two countries are part of the agenda of hastening Sadc integration economically and politically which could see the regional agenda taking priority ahead of the two countries’ individual needs.
Schlettwein told The Villager that, “Both parties will benefit but these agreements are now being overtaken by Sadc protocols. Our take is that it gives opportunity for free trade. We realise that we have bilateral agreements but the purpose is to improve those specific areas,” he said.
Zimbabwe currently has five preferential bilateral trade agreements under which exporters can benefit. The five trade agreements are with Botswana, Namibia, Malawi, Zimbabwe, South Africa and Mozambique.
Namibia and Zimbabwe have a reciprocal agreement in effect since 1992, subject to rules of origin which require at least 25% local content for manufactured goods and that Zimbabwe and Namibia should, as exporters, be the last place of substantial manufacturing. Other eligible products include mineral and vegetable products, live animals and their products.
Other than their flourishing political understanding cemented in the days of the liberation struggles when their leaders shared trenches to battle colonial bondage in Zambia and Tanzania the countries also have engagements in trade and investment, agriculture, telecommunications, mining, energy, defence and security, transport and environment, infrastructure development.
The two countries also have a strong umbilical arts and culture, education, health, social welfare, gender, science and technology and fisheries where they share expertise.
“It depends on what the two countries can co-operate on. We now have the Sadc protocol and what we want to improve the next step is the Custom Union. We have investment areas that we can improve on but many of these are done through Sadc now and this agreement will not become less effective but less redundancy,” Schlettwein said.
His sentiments corroborate the signing of an MoU to improve cooperation in agriculture, meteorology, tourism and youth affairs at the Namibia-Zimbabwe joint cooperation by their Foreign Affairs Ministers, Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah and Simbarashe Mumbengegwi respectively.
Nandi-Ndaitwah also said that both countries were satisfied with the current state of bilateral relations but urged Zimbabwe to utilise the dry pot facility in Namibia.
As part of their co-operation agreement Namibia has availed the dry port facility in Walvis Bay to Zimbabwe to make use pf Namport for their imports and exports.
According to the two governments the needs for the engagement is to cement already existing cordial relationships going forward. Namibia is also among the very few resilient countries that has called for the unconditional lifting of an economic embargo on Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe has been squeezed by economic sanctions by former coloniser Britain and its Anglo Saxons in a bid to influence that country’s internal political engagements.