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NAU Says AR Land Bill Will Harm Foreign Investment

By: Justicia Shipena

Namibia Agricultural Union (NAU) says the provisions in the proposed bill on the regulation of foreign ownership of land in Namibia by the Affirmative Repositioning (AR) may impact current and future investments by foreigners.

NAU said this during its presentation on the submitted draft bill with the parliamentary standing committee on natural resources at parliament on Thursday.

In March 2019, AR submitted the bill parliamentarian standing committee on natural resources.

“It is important to note that the bill’s provisions will adversely impact current and future investments by non-Namibians in this country,” said NAU’s president Piet Gouws.

According to Gouws, one should ask if it would not be considered pernicious for the government to approve and encourage investments by foreigners in the acquisitions and development of agricultural land.

He added that once foreign nationals have made substantial capital and infrastructure investments, a law is passed requiring the expropriation within three years.

“Having made those investments with the government’s approval and encouragement and the clear intention to drive the project for many years to come will have to be expropriated within three years,” said Gouws.

He further added that one has to ask whether they could be any event that could have a more significant chilling effect on future foreign investments in agriculture in Namibia.

“One has to ask whether it will be appropriate for parliament to pass legislation that will result in the expropriation within three years of all land being owned by mining corporations in agricultural areas. They have invested millions in mining plants and infrastructure development,” he said.

Touching on clause one of the bill, Gouws said reading article 4 of the constitution and the provisions of the Namibian citizenship act of 1990 makes it clear that they are exclusively concerned with investing Namibian citizenship in natural persons.

“It follows, therefore, both rationally and logically that in as much as an artificial person for outside the definition of the Namibian. In clause 1 of the bill, they are persons falling within the meaning of foreign nationals,” he said.

However, Gouws stressed that the NAU supports the policy for land reform in Namibia peacefully and constructively.

“In the process exemplary to many nations, the peaceful transfer of plus-minus 10 million hectares of title deed land that accounts for approximately 30 per cent of deed land since the mid-90s to previously disadvantaged Namibians is a model of transformations for Africa.”

He said the NAU accepts that much still needs to be done; however, the responsible manner of land reform implemented by the government of Namibia created confidence for the remaining landowners to continue investing in their land. He added that it provides food for the land earning export revenue for the country.

“We recognise that land reform in Namibia can only continue to be a success if the beneficiaries of the land acquired can sustainably operate financially successful farming enterprises and invest in infrastructure, create employment, and contribute to the GDP of agriculture,” said Gouws.

Moreover, he added that Namibia could not afford any land that is not productive and sustainable, irrespective of whether the land is situated in a title deed or communal area or owned by either Namibians or foreign nationals or the government.

“Investments, focus, determination and hardworking are needed to achieve productivity benefitting all Namibians,” he expressed.

Gouws emphasised that foreign investment is an essential driver in Namibia’s economy and agriculture is no exception.

“History has shown that private investment and management of agricultural projects are the most effective means to utilise the natural potential and convert agricultural opportunities into employment and economic value added for Namibia.”

Furthermore, he said most foreign investment in Namibian agriculture is challenged and channelled to high-value export crops like table grapes, dates, blueberries etc.

“Investments of up to N$2 million per hectare are made. During the last decade, billions were invested on the southern border of Namibia, which created thousands of employment opportunities for Namibians,” Gouws explained.

However, he stated that Namibia requires agricultural management skills and foreign investments to develop and implement large irrigation projects.

“Such skills are not currently readily available in Namibia, and investment capital, not borrowed money, is needed. We, therefore, need to create investor confidence and maintain policy surety for investors to grow our sector and create local employment and value addition to our economy.”

According to the bill AR proposed, foreign nationals may only lease the land as envisaged in section 5 for commercial purposes and are prohibited from leasing any agricultural land or communal land.

“No lease period exceeding ten years shall be valid. However, the lease agreement may be renewed upon application by the partnership,” it reads.

The bill also states that if the land is lawfully owned by a foreign national before the commencement of the act, such land shall remain owned by the foreigner, but it cannot be transferred or bequeathed to another foreign national after the act.

It further indicated that ownership or transfer after that should only be affected by a Namibian national.

Moreover, it demands that the state expropriate agricultural land owned by foreigners within three years from the date of the commencement of the act, in accordance with the existing laws.

While, on communal land, the bill states that no foreign national can utilise communal land for any purpose.

It states that any allocations of communal land to foreigners before the act shall be deemed an illegal transition and repudiated.




Justicia Shipena

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