Guest of Honour, Honourable Minister Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah,
Honourable Minister Uahekua Herunga,
Lieutenant General Epaphras Ndaitunga,
other Ministers, Senior Officials, Excellencies, Distinguished Guests and members of the media.
Welcome to the Residence on this beautiful afternoon to celebrate the official birthday of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
A momentous 12 months have passed for the UK since I last stood here before you. Our wonderful capital city hosted the “Greatest Show on Earth” - the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. I think you will all agree with me that the UK really rose to the challenge and put on a set of Games that were innovative, modern and really exciting. The Games reached new heights of sporting excellence – whilst also giving a nod to many of our proud traditions, history and creative industries. I was particularly thrilled that Namibia joined in the Olympic celebrations by securing a first gold medal – as well as another silver to add to Frankie Fredericks’ impressive haul. I hope that this is the first of many more gold medals to head this way from the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow next year.
Last year, the UK also celebrated Her Majesty’s Diamond Jubilee to mark Queen Elizabeth II’s 60 years on the throne and as Head of the Commonwealth. It was a proud time for Britons at home and across the world to salute Her Majesty’s years of duty and dedication to the people of the United Kingdom, and to the global community.
We were especially delighted that His Excellency President Hifikepunye Pohamba was able to join in the Diamond Jubilee celebrations in London last June and attend the State Banquet to mark our joyful event.
2013 marks 23 years of diplomatic relations between the Republic of Namibia and the United Kingdom, a relationship based on mutual respect, admiration and friendship. My newly enlarged team here continues to work hard to develop this relationship further and focus on the UK’s top foreign policy priorities of boosting trade, enhancing global security and providing excellent services for Brits abroad.
To this end, I am delighted that British companies remain significant contributors to the health of the Namibian economy in a range of sectors from mining, oil and gas, marine and financial services and tourism.
I would particularly like to thank some key members of our British Business Group who have helped sponsor today’s event: so a big hand please to Tullow Kudu Ltd and Rolls Royce Marine. Thank you.
Last year, we doubled our exports of British goods to Namibia to reach N$1.1bn (£76.6m) but sadly saw a 28% drop in overall bilateral trade figures to N$4.7bn (£349.8m) following De Beers decision to move its diamond sorting operations from London to Botswana. I therefore urge you all to start buying a lot more British vehicles and machinery this year to boost bilateral trade volumes and enable us to meet both our governments’ ambitious targets - and have even more to celebrate next year.
Under our security activities, we continue to strengthen our ties with the Namibian security sector through our ongoing support and training for the Namibian Defence Force and NAMPOL. British Police specialists assisted NAMPOL with the introduction of new community policing programmes in Katutura last year. All went so well that we are now looking to provide additional support to help roll out the community policing programme nationwide. On the military side, we were delighted that British Navy frigate HMS Argyll visited Walvis Bay in May this year to strengthen our naval relations – and hope to broaden such valuable cooperative initiatives further this year.
We continue to invest in a range of wider projects to support our shared aims including: supporting trade facilitation research into the Tripartite Free Trade Agreement; supporting the establishment of new definitions for Namibian tour guides and registration requirements; and providing specialist English language training for guides at Namibia’s National Heritage sites.
We also supported the Legal Assistance Centre’s anti-baby dumping initiative - and separate campaign to raise awareness about child abuse and domestic violence; we helped NaDEET’s environmental education centre to buy solar cookers; and funded the construction of a kindergarten at the Waterberg Plateau National Park for the local community.
I would also like to highlight the cultural and educational work of the British Council here as another important feature of the UK-Namibian landscape. Through its Connecting Classrooms programme, the British Council trained more than 320 Inspectors of Education, Regional Education Directors, School Principals and Heads of Department at School Leadership workshops in all 13 regions of Namibia in the last year. It also provided £33,000 of funding for its schools on-line partnership initiative – and successfully launched the Namibia English Teachers Association in Southern and Western Namibia – with plans to set up another branch in the Caprivi region this year.
Looking ahead, the UK is proud to have assumed the Presidency of the G8 this month and to be hosting a number of Namibian ministers and senior officials at key events in the UK marking our Trade, Transparency and Tax - triple T - focus. So plenty going forward across key commercial agendas close to both our countries’ hearts.
Now that you are suitably assured that our bilateral relations and activities remain as diverse and valuable as ever – I would like to invite you to join me in singing our national anthems ahead of our toast.
National anthems: Many thanks.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I would now like to ask you to join me in toasting the health of the Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and His Excellency President Hifikepunye Pohamba - and the Government and people of our two great nations: The Queen and The President of Namibia.