Hage Geingob, President of the Republic of Namibia, spoke with local officials and energy executives this week to establish future business and social partnerships with San Antonio. The World Affairs Council of San Antonio presented Geingob to University of Incarnate Word students, faculty members and San Antonio residents on Thursday, where he previewed his upcoming address to the United Nations, which highlighted the current events of his country.
(See a photo gallery from Pres. Geinbob’s tour of the city above.)
He shared his vision of a “New Africa” that would promote business relations, gender equality and political transparency among its people and its government.
“In the past, African former presidents either end up in France, in jail or six feet under … those days are over,” Geingob said. “Whatever you may have heard, Namibia is an advancing country. We are connecting with the rest of Africa and the rest of the world.”
Geingob was born in Namibia, and was active in political movements throughout the ‘60s and ‘70s, seeking to improve the region’s educational opportunities and gain independence from South Africa. He earned his BA at Fordham University and an MA in International Relations from the New School in New York before he returned to Namibia, spearheading the South West Africa People’s Organization (SWAPO), which helped Namibia gain independence from South Africa in 1990.
He was immediately elected as prime minister and served in that position until 2002. Geingob was elected as President in late 2014, and was sworn in last March. At age 74, he seeks to change the world’s impression of Africa from a war-torn region to a place of economic possibilities and growth.
“Investors have seen us as military-based, but they have also seen [our] diamonds and uranium,” Geingob said, crediting the country’s riches with bringing Namibia to the international community’s attention.
Geingob also acknowledged Namibia’s progressive stance on equal gender representation in government has made the country a stronger and more substantive body. Namibia observes the “Zebra system,” which seeks 50/50 representation in a government once dominated by men.
“Women were always left out, but we have already increased from 24% of representation of women to 47%,” Geingob said of Namibia’s female representation in government, which is only second to Rwanda. “We are giving women responsible positions, and we rely on diplomacy.”
Women in power include Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhil, the first female prime minister, and Deputy Prime Minister Alexia Manombe-Ncube, who is in charge of important international relations. Geingob argued that this was essential to providing a positive example of leadership for other countries, and representing the needs and wants of the Namibian people.
“I didn’t become a leader because of the international community, it should be the people who must lead,” Geingob said. “New Africa must provide against corruption. There is a lot of distrust of politicians. … We are saying corruption is a problem in Africa and we must lead by example. I believe in transparency and accountability.”
The World Affairs Council presented the president and first lady with gifts symbolizing the ongoing friendship between Namibia and San Antonio: an American buffalo and pottery from Mexico – these in addition to gifts exchanged earlier in the day at City Hall during a special ceremony.
“I know that the seeds you planted today will have a future benefit in your country and ours, and our city,” said Bexar County Commissioner Tommy Calvert, as he presented The Hidalgo Award to Pres. Geingob. “It will certainly be an honor to see Namibia grow.”
The Hidalgo Award is Bexar County’s highest honor, and given to individuals who have contributed great achievements or provided community services to the county. Pres. Geingob will further discuss his meetings with local officials and his future plans for partnerships with the City of San Antonio during a breakfast event on Friday.