Gaomab II attracted N$20b AfDB funding to Namibia

DURING his tenure as the Executive Director of the Southern Africa Group II constituency office of the African Development Bank (AfDB), Mihe Gaomab II (MG) was entrusted to represent four constituent member states namely Angola, Mozambique, Namibia and Zimbabwe on projects, policy, activities and programmes. In this regard, he did not only act as an ambassador of the constituency but was also expected to exercise his individual judgment in the interest of the Bank and its members as a whole, in particular Namibia. Confidente News Editor, Hilary Mare (HM) last week sat down with Gaomab II, who exclusively shared insights into his tenure and impact that influenced investments of over N$20 billion into Namibia.

(HM):  For the benefit of our readers, kindly explain what your role was at AfDB?

(MG):  Over the three-year tenure, I was entrusted to contribute to the mission and vision of the Bank, approve the strategy and structure as well as key policies, loans and credits not only for the constituent member states but for all the 54 regional member countries of the Bank. During my tenure, I carried out a central role as the chairman of the committee on operations and development effectiveness of the Bank supporting the board of directors in providing guidance on strategic directions of the Bank’s operations and monitoring the quality and results of the Bank Group’s development effectiveness. I officiated on the evaluation and approval of the quality of preparation of Country Strategy Papers (CSPs), Regional Integration Strategy Papers (RISPs), Country Portfolio Performance Reviews (CPPRs) and Indicative Operational Plans (IOPs) of the regional member countries of the Bank.

As a member of the audit, risk and finance committee, I assisted the board of directors in fulfilling their oversight responsibilities by reviewing and recommending improvements to the financial management, accounting, risk and internal controls, procurement, integrity and anti-corruption activities of the group.  I was accountable for ensured monitoring procedures for financial reporting and the integrity and reliability of the bank’s financial statements and ensuring the independence and efficient performance of the Bank’s internal audit and the integrity and sanctions functions.

(HM):  What did Namibia gain from your representation?

(MG):  During my tenure, the Namibian nation was assured that the African Development Bank became a strong development partner of choice. The Bank’s support to Namibia has been under the country strategy paper which provides a five-year horizon lending and assistance framework on investment and lending needs and targeted Bank support to key areas of interest such as infrastructure investment operations in rail, logistics, transport, water, aquaculture and agriculture.

The Bank has further enhanced collaborative country dialogue and stronger engagement with our Government with assured demonstration of its financing instruments and technical services to support Namibia’s National Development Plans and that of the Harambee Prosperity Plan (HPP) consisting of the High 5s of the African Development Bank on strengthening fiscal consolidation efforts and infrastructure needs in the country that aid in long term competitiveness, agriculture modernisation, industrialisation as well as on trade and economic integration. The Bank has also contributed to the improvement of the quality of life of all Namibians especially in areas of statistical capacity building, feasibility designs, governance, education and health.

(HM):  Did Namibia benefit financially from your influence?

(MG):  When I left to the AfDB in 2016, the country portfolio programme for Namibia was just below N$1 billion. By the time I completed my tenure, the portfolio grew to over N$20 billion which according to the president of the Bank represented the fastest growing portfolio in SADC after South Africa. In fact, the erstwhile Minister of Finance Calle Schlettwein specifically pointed out to me in terms of what the government expectations were:  “Why is South Africa benefiting from AfDB but we as Namibia, we don’t seem to be, in terms of lending and assistance programmes from a continental premier institution?”

I got the expectation then loud and clear because we had all these years been paying our subscription fees of close to N$30 million on an annual basis, but we could only get little benefit in terms of support when I joined the Bank in 2016. Hence I made it my utmost priority without compromising attention to the other constituent member states such as Angola, Zimbabwe and Mozambique, that Namibia had a broadened portfolio covering 32 operations across policy based (budget) operations and strategic key areas of interest on infrastructure that is targeted for the promotion of Namibia’s competitiveness on renewable energy supply, rail, logistics, transport, water and sanitation, manufacturing, aquaculture, agriculture, statistical capacity building support, airport feasibility study design, capacity building on revenue agency, public private partnerships, governance, education and health.

I am proud to say that Namibia has got funding of close to N$1.8 billion through the Namibia Water Sector Support Programme (NWSSP) which has ensured access, security and sustainability of water supply and its infrastructure services in Namibia.  You will hear of the full roll-out soon (in fact it has already started) due to this programme  in terms of bulk water infrastructure development: Rehabilitation/ construction of bulk water facilities, reservoirs, water networks, boreholes, water points, pump stations,  rural water supply and sanitation.

Another area was the economic governance and competitiveness programme. As you are aware, I am a true believer in effecting proper governance judging also from my current governance assignments in the public and private sectors and as Director of the Namibia Institute of Corporate Governance.  It has also been my concerted value driven principle that an economy cannot develop without proper good governance both in the corporate and public sectors. In fact, lack of it can be a serious constraint in achieving economic, environmental and social development agenda of Namibia.

The AfDB has also significantly transformed the transport infrastructure through an improvement project with the funding targeting three-way lines that we see in Windhoek next to Grove mall all the way past the Windhoek Country Club and the Windhoek – Okahandja Road and the Kamanjab  -Omakange – Ruacana Road with priority interventions on upgrading of the Walvis Bay    Kranzberg  railway  section  (210km);  and  (ii)  Upgrading  of  the  Windhoek  to  Hosea Kutako International Airport (HKIA)  Road  as well as the Namibia Ports Authority (Namport) as the SADC gateway and the oil storage facility.

To quote the vibrant and dynamic Governor of the Kunene region, Hon Marius Sheya at his 2020 State of the Region Address,  AfDB also provided during my tenure support in the form of the Namibia Agricultural Mechanisation and  Seed  Improvement Project’s  (NAMSIP) as an essential development goal to  improve  household  food  security and enhance agricultural productivity in order to reduce annual importation of staple cereal crops/grains, thereby facilitating job creation, and enhance household  incomes of especially the lives of the rural people.  NAMSIP is a proven funding tool for the 10 crop growing regions in the northern part of Namibia namely through adequate provision of seed and its harvesting for the rural population of Namibia.

I also believe strongly in functional education apart from academic education, whereby there is need to equip Namibians with skills to meaningfully contribute to the economy. Hence my resolve for AfDB to have provided funding support through the Namibia Education and Training Quality Improvement Project which aimed at contributing to the development of an efficient, effective and sustainable Technical, Vocational Education and Training (TVET)  system in Namibia that are aligned with the current and future skills needs of the labour market in the country.

(HM):  What would you regard as the highlight of your tenure at AfDB specifically in context of Namibia?

(MG): Having been nine months in the job, the highlight of my tenure was to secure a huge delegation of 70 percent of executive directors of the Bank who were the decision makers of the Bank to Namibia in April 2017 to assess its potential as an attractive destination of investment. During that visit, I expressed my appreciation and thanks to President Hage Geingob for receiving them with a warm and hospitable reception. The high-powered delegation actually played a crucial role of putting Namibia on the map at the AfDB and further realised a robust and enriched country portfolio.

(HM):  Anything else you would like to share?

(MG):  There is still an area that I would like to have realised which I did not do much for Namibia but of which I was instrumental when I was appointed as the Chairman of the Development Committee of the AfDB to lead on the development of a non-sovereign operations policy which is really a policy framework that assists the private sector in African countries to get bankable project support from AfDB. By the time I left the time, the policy was approved but it was tremendous hard work since it was not appreciated at first by fellow colleagues because it opened room for private sector funding without necessarily involving the government. The policy is now approved and the Bank can support Namibia on private sector development by securing viable and bankable projects in Namibia. I am sure more is to come to Namibia through this policy.