Strengthening Namibia’s private sector through effective trade policy

With key export areas in agricultural products and extractive commodities (diamonds make up 25% of exports) and faced with a trade deficit, Namibia has had to make critical strides in trade research and negotiations to ensure it remains competitive in the global marketplace by taking advantage of a range of favourable trade partnerships and agreements that drive private sector growth.

Australia Awards Alumnus Rodney Hoaeb, a Trade and Investment Researcher at the Namibia Trade Forum, is at the forefront of strengthening Namibia’s trading position. In 2016, shortly after returning from an Australia Awards Trade Policy and Negotiations Short Course delivered by the University of Adelaide, Rodney was tasked with engaging the private sector to ensure that their interests are taken into consideration during trade negotiations.

Rodney says that the skills gained from his Short Course gave him in-depth information about global trade and the World Trade Organisation (WTO). As part of the course, he completed the Professional Certificate in International Trade, a WTO-accredited qualification. “The course equipped me to make well-informed decisions in trade negotiations and improved my research abilities and understanding of concepts.”

As a Technical Delegate at the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Trade in Services Negotiations, Rodney was tasked with negotiating Namibia’s position on the elimination of trade barriers in the priority sectors of finance, energy, construction, communications, transport and tourism. According to Rodney, the 15 SADC member states agreed to draft offers and make commitments in these key areas of services in line with the WTO General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs. “[These negotiations] are very important because our country improved its trade position by making offers. All these interventions are aimed at employment creation, the development of value chains and food security. Trade negotiations benefit the whole economy.”

In 2016, Rodney attended the Trade Law Centre (Tralac) Research Affiliations and Industrialisation Round Table, which discussed issues that hinder industrialisation. As a Namibian representative, Rodney presented key challenges for his country and assessed the possible impact of the Continental Free Trade Agreement (CFTA) in growing intra-African trade. “At the event, wider sector recommendations were made to tackle industrialisation goals and to establish best practices to advance cross-border trade,” explains Rodney.

Rodney has not only contributed to trade research in Namibia, but also regionally. Significantly, he co-authored a book on commodities trade between Africa and China – the main finding being a decline in Africa’s market share in China, which could affect regional economic growth. “With the information, we made suggestions to safeguard our economies in various ways. Many academics will benefit; it will give them insight.”

While large exporters and importers are the main beneficiaries of trade research, smaller enterprises are also a priority when it comes to understanding the impact of global trade on local production. Rodney was at the helm of a program called Access Training, which sent mentors out to assist women entrepreneurs to improve their product standards and ensure export quality. “We mentored 10 female business owners and held public-private dialogue sessions attended by women and youths on technical barriers to trade, sanitary and phytosanitary measures (food safety, animal and plant health) and capitalising on trade agreements.”

Australia Awards recipients are tasked with developing a work plan to guide the implementation of their development activities on return. Rodney says that, over the months since finishing his Short Course, the new ideas and knowledge gained have enabled him to make a significant impact. “According to my work plan, my task was to expand the involvement of most private sector companies in trade negotiations. I did this by enhancing stakeholder involvement and communications. We delivered on research needs and policy interventions for the private sector on regional and national trade negotiations.”

Later in 2017, Rodney will represent Namibia at the CFTA Trade in Services negotiations. “Currently, we are reviewing the methodologies for the CFTA Trade in Services. I will join the negotiation team and engage with the private sector through dialogue related to the negotiations.”

Image from Africa Trade Analyst website.

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