The European Union has made Namibia a key part of a major infrastructure development plan it is rolling out to rival China’s Belt and Road Initiative.
The southern African country has agreed a partnership with the bloc to develop its renewable hydrogen capacity, backed by 1 billion euros ($1 billion) in EU investments. The deal is part of the EU’s Global Gateway initiative, a plan to “mobilize” 300 billion euros ($322 billion) in public and private investments to develop projects focused on green energy, transport infrastructure and digital economies in various parts of the world.
The agreement was announced yesterday at an EU summit in Brussels to launch the bloc’s global infrastructure initiative that was attended by government officials, financial institutions, policymakers and business leaders.
The partnership with Namibia includes plans to develop the Walvis Bay port, the entry point from the Atlantic side to the Walvis Bay – Maputo Corridor. Jutta Urpilainen, European commissioner for international partnerships, held talks with Namibian President Hage Geingob at the first ever EU-Namibia Business Forum, which was held in Brussels this week. She told Semafor Africa about the partnership.
Semafor: Why is revitalizing Namibia’s port infrastructure considered so important?
Jutta Urpilainen: A thriving green hydrogen and critical raw materials industry requires good transport connectivity. Upgrading the ports of Walvis Bay and Lüderitz and developing the wider Maputo-Gaborone-Walvis Bay Strategic Corridor will be important for the future of these value chains.
Namibia has ambitions to make the port of Walvis Bay into a logistics hub for the Southern Africa Development Community. The port could also facilitate trade and mobility beyond the region, inter-Africa, and between Africa and Europe, further advancing economic Integration.
The EU just signed a contract with the Port of Antwerp-Bruges International to support this transformation of the Walvis Bay port.
How many jobs are expected to be created?
JU: The development of green hydrogen and downstream industries has potential to create thousands of jobs in the coming years. Namibia alone has a pipeline of projects of around 21 billion euros ($22.2 billion) to be developed by 2030.
Likewise, the development of a critical raw materials (lithium, rare earth minerals, graphite, cobalt) production and beneficiation industry has potential to generate a significant number of jobs in the coming years.
How could these partnerships benefit countries in the wider region?
JU: Namibia is a frontrunner in the region in the area of green hydrogen. The successful development of a green hydrogen industry in Namibia is poised to create spill-over effects for the region along the entire value chain from the creation of downstream industries — for example on e-fuels and e-steel — to excess clean electricity to be sold to the regional electricity market via the Southern Africa Power Pool.