Relationship Between Namibia and Germany Part I

By | May 18, 2021

Foreign policy and regional involvement

Compared to many other African countries, foreign policy plays a relatively minor role in Namibia. This is due, on the one hand, to Namibia’s location in the far south-west of Africa, far from all African trouble spots, and, on the other hand, to the fact that Namibia is surrounded exclusively by states with which it lives in good neighborhood and largely without conflicts. An article by the former Namibian Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs, Peya Mushelenga, and a study by the Konrad-Adenauer-Stfitung give a good overview of Namibia’s foreign policy.

According to historyaah, in the 1990’s, there were disagreements between Namibia and Botswana regarding the territorial affiliation of Kasikili Island, a small river island on the border between Namibia and Botswana in the Caprivi tip. However, the dispute was referred by the two countries to the International Court of Justice and there (in favor of Botswana) decided. There were also discussions with South Africa about the use of the Orange Water on the southern border of Namibia, but this never led to major diplomatic resentments.

Due to the extremely close economic ties with South Africa, Namibia could not risk annoying its ‘big brother’ anyway. Well over half of all Namibian imports come from South Africa, which is also (astonishingly after Switzerland!) Namibia’s second largest export market. In addition, the Namibian dollar is pegged to the South African rand (at a ratio of 1: 1).

Since the end of the civil war in Angola and its enormous economic boom through offshore oil production, there are currently no more serious problems on Namibia’s northern border. Instead, despite the language barrier with Angola (where Portuguese is the national language), trade has developed briskly and Angola has become one of Namibia’s most important export countries. However, due to the decline in the world market price for oil, on which Angola is highly dependent, the Angolans’ desire to buy has decreased considerably in recent years.

Namibia is a respected member of the African Union (AU), the successor organization to the OAU (Organization of African Unity). Namibia is also a member of the SADC (Southern African Development Community) and together with South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana and Eswatini it forms the SACU (Southern African Customs Union). The annual income from the SACU’s customs equalization payments form an important pillar of the Namibian state budget.

Due to its history as a long-term mandate area under South African administration, the economic ties in particular with South Africa are of course extremely close, but there is also close cooperation with Botswana and numerous joint and, in some cases, cross-border projects, such as the KAZA National Park and the planned railway line from Botswana to Walvis Bay.

In the course of the last 10 to 15 years it has been observed that the influence of China in Namibia (as in many other African countries) is growing steadily, both politically and especially economically. Numerous Namibian politicians see China as a welcome counterweight to the influence of the Americans and Europeans in the country and play this “Chinese card”sent out again and again. There is a clear contrast between the (extremely ‘China-friendly’) attitude of the Namibian government (and the corresponding top politicians at SWAPO) and the reputation of the Chinese in the Namibian population. This is because it is now reacting far more sensitively and negatively to the increasing Chinese influence, especially to the constantly growing influence of Chinese companies and business people on the Namibian economy.

Relationship between Namibia and Germany

Historical background

Due to its past as a German colony and the resulting German-speaking population group in Namibia, there is a (also officially so-called) “special historical relationship” between the two states. This is particularly evident in the fact that Namibia enjoys high priority in German development cooperation. No other country in Africa receives higher per capita grants from Germany.

The Namibia pages of the Federal Foreign Office give a very good, compact introduction to the relations between Germany and Namibia. The website of the German Embassy in Windhoek gives an overview of the current priorities of development cooperation. The development cooperation between the two countries not only includes the usual projects and instruments of technical cooperation (TC) and financial cooperation (FC), but also includes a German advisory group to the Bundeswehr a. As part of the federal government’s equipment aid program for foreign armed forces (AH), the advisory group of the German armed forces has been supporting the Namibian Defense Forces (NDF) since 1992, particularly in the field of training and through deliveries in kind.

A problem that has not yet been fully dealt with (and thus a latent point of conflict) is the historical and international legal assessment of the Herero War of 1904-1907 and the resulting consequences for the relationship between the two countries. From the destruction of large parts of the Herero people as a result of the destruction order of Lieutenant General von Trotha, parts of the Herero and Nama derive financial claims for reparation in the billions.

The political and international legal assessment of the events at that time is a politically, historically and, last but not least, also legally very explosive and complicated topic and should therefore deliberately not be deepened at this point – also due to the author’s lack of appropriate legal and historical detailed knowledge – especially since it is also within Namibian politics and the general public seem to have significant differences of opinion on this.

At this point we would like to point out the so-called “German-Namibian Reconciliation Initiative”, which resulted from the 2004 visit to Namibia by the former German Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development, Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul, and which started in 2007 with a budget of € 20 Million implemented and recently completed.

Because of the political explosiveness and sensitivity of this topic, please refer to the corresponding official announcements of the federal government for further information, for example to a response by the federal government to a “small question” from the DIE LINKE parliamentary group in August 2012 or in an article by the former ZEIT Bundestag President Lammert made statements.

Germans and Namibians living together