Flag of Namibia. Public domain photo.
Flag of Namibia. Public domain photo.

President Hage Geingob of Namibia will arrive in San Antonio Thursday and deliver a speech that evening sponsored by the World Affairs Council and the University of Incarnate Word. His public talk will be the highlight of a tightly scheduled 24-hour visit by the president, who will be accompanied by an entourage of 36 family members, senior cabinet officials and business leaders.

Mayor Ivy Taylor will host a private dinner for the president and Namibian delegation Thursday evening at a downtown location, which is not being released for security reasons. The president also will be honored at City Council Thursday and then visit the Alamo. Senior cabinet members traveling with the president will visit the University of Texas Health Sciences Center where they will be hosted by UTHSC President and CEO Dr. William Henrich, and sign a memorandum of understanding establishing a working relationship between UTHSC and the Namibian public health ministry.

They also will meet with Alamo Colleges Chancellor Dr. Bruce Leslie and Vice-Chancellor of Economic and Workforce Development Federico Zaragoza.

HE Hage Geingob President of Namibia-1
President Hage Geingob of Namibia

The president will deliver his speech in the university’s Rosenberg Sky Room at 847. E. Hildebrand Ave. where seating for 300 will be available on a first-come, first serve basis. The event is Thursday from 5-7 p.m and free and open to the public. The president will depart Friday for a scheduled speech at the United Nations in New York. Both speeches are expected to center on Namibia’s Silver Jubilee as the onetime German colony in Africa continues to celebrate its 25th anniversary of winning independence from South Africa.

Visits by heads of state and other dignitaries to San Antonio are rare. Pres. Geingob will be the first African head of state to visit the city and, perhaps, the state. It’s been nearly 23 years since U.S. President George H.W. Bush, Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, and Mexican President Carlos Salinas de Gortari met in San Antonio to initial the North American Trade Agreement on December 17, 1992. Mexican President  Ernesto Zedillo was scheduled to make an official visit here, but that visit was canceled at the last-minute. Former Mexican President Vicente Fox has visited several times, but only since leaving office. Pope John Paul II celebrated Mass in San Antonio in 1987. Queen Elizabeth II and her husband, Prince Phillip, visited the Alamo in 1991.

“None of us were expecting this visit, it was a great surprise when we found out only one month ago that Pres. Geingob would be coming,” said Sherry Dowlatshahi, the city’s chief of protocol and head of international relations. “It’s an exciting week for San Antonio, and really exciting for the mayor.”

“The mayor and her family will go to the airport to welcome President Geingob and Madam Monica Geingos,” Dowlatshahi said. “Later, at a private gift exchange ceremony, she will present the president with a photograph of Mission San José.”

In Namibia, the president’s surname ends with the letter “b” while the feminine form of the same surname ends with the letter “s.”

Mission San José. Photo by Aubra Franklin.
Mission San José. Photo by Aubra Franklin.

The image of Mission San José is from a series by Aubra Franklin, a San Antonio businessman more publicly known as a landscape and fine art photography. “I went on a three-week photography trip in Namibia two years ago, so this is a nice connection to that visit and experience, ” Franklin said.

This is Namibia’s Silver Jubilee year, their 25th year as an independent nation. Pres. Geingob is only the third president in the nation’s history. His visit here comes less than six months after San Antonio and officials from Windhoek, the Namibian capital, signed a Friendship Cities agreement here, often a prelude to a more formal Sister Cities agreement. The potential for economic ties between South Texas and Namibia is evident in the delegation’s plans to meet with energy and oil and gas executives as well as medical and health care officials.

Namibia, which aspires to be energy independent, depends on neighboring Angola’s hydroelectric dam on its border for all of its electricity. Namibia hopes to attract foreign investment to develop its own proven gas reserves and to explore for oil deposits. The Free Trade Alliance San Antonio is hosting a Friday morning breakfast where the president and Namibian delegation will meet with key energy officials and oil and gas executives.

The President and First Lady and Namibian delegation will arrive late Thursday morning at San Antonio International Airport and be formally welcomed by Mayor Taylor and her husband, Rodney, among other local officials. The all-female Mariachi Flor de Jalisco will perform. The delegation will then be escorted by San Antonio police and the U. S. Secret Service to downtown hotels, which have not been identified for security reasons.

Pres. Geingob will be accompanied on his visit by Deputy Prime Minister Netumbo Nandi Ndatiwah; Minister of Mines and Energy Obed Kandjoze; Minister of Health and Social Services Bernhard Haufiku; Namibian Ambassador to the United States Martin Andjada; and and Namibia Chamber of Commerce and Industry CEO Tarah Shaanika, as well as various Namibian business leaders.

Mayor Taylor’s Thursday dinner will be attended by the Namibians as well as several members of City Council, City Manger Sheryl Sculley, various chambers of commerce representatives and other invited guests from the community, including San Antonio Attorney Bob Braubach, the honorary consul for Namibia in San Antonio.

*Top Image: Flag of Namibia. Public domain photo.

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Conversation: What ‘Sister Cities International Conference’ Means for San Antonio

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Robert Rivard, co-founder of the San Antonio Report who retired in 2022, has been a working journalist for 46 years. He is the host of the bigcitysmalltown podcast.