Former Governor Jim Florio, Secretary of Agriculture Douglas Fisher, the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce, and Rutgers Global hosted Thomas Alweendo, Namibian minister of economic planning, and his delegation of about 30 government officials and business executives for a discussion about public-private-academic collaboration in energy, infrastructure, and agriculture. The minister and his delegation spent a day at Rutgers as part of their visit to the New York area for the United Nations 72nd General Assembly.
During his address, Alweendo presented priority areas for Namibian economic development and urged multinational collaboration to reach goals set by those priorities, including developing more technology efforts.
“Technology and innovation is what will drive 21st century job creation. We have to make sure we are not left behind when it comes to information communications and technology,” he said.
Alweendo also took aim at a common myth—one that has continually been disproven, but is still pervasive among the general public.
“For us to cultivate a shared vision, we need to know things about each other… because when we do not know each other we continue to deal with each other based on misinformation. One myth about Africa is that we are backwards when it comes to technology. If you’ve been there before, you know it’s not true,” said Alweendo, citing that the percentage of mobile phone ownership among South African and Namibian adults was comparable to that of American adults.
Namibia is considered one of the most developed and democratic of countries in Africa by most standards. Though Namibia is already a top tourist destination on the African continent, the minister also stressed Namibia’s focus on growing the service sector and improving tourism—particularly from the United States.
“Recent marketing may help us with that,” Alweendo joked, referencing President Donald Trump’s “Nambia” gaffe and adding that another myth he hoped to dispel was that Africa is an unsafe place.
“People think there is too much corruption and war. Our president [Hage Geingob] has declared war… on corruption,” he said, adding that the Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index and other global organizations rank Namibia more favorably than many other tourist destinations.
Alweendo ended his address with a call for “partnerships between Namibia and their businesses and universities.”
“This engagement is going to be a helpful catalyst for us to go forward. The world is where it is today really not because of competition and division, but really because of cooperation.”
Rutgers and the University of Namibia answered that call by signing an official partnership agreement that lays the groundwork for enhancing academic exchange between the two universities and could bring about more collaborative research opportunities in areas of mutual interest, such as transportation and environment—as well as study abroad programs for students.
Following the signing, Bisey Uirab, a member of the minister’s delegation and CEO of NAMPORT, Namibia’s port authority, presented an overview of operations, while Pohamba Shifeta, Namibia’s minister of environment and tourism, invited attendees to visit the country to enjoy Namibia’s scenic coastline and wildlife.
Rutgers representatives from agriculture, African studies, business, engineering and energy, health and business presented snapshots of key achievements of their departments and schools. A closing luncheon provided a networking opportunity for political and business delegates to discuss future collaborations in more detail.