Namibia gained its independence on 21 March 1990, inspiring people all over the world with its peaceful transition to a sovereign democratic State. The European Union (EU), at the time still the European Community, welcomed the new country and established governmental relations the day after independence.

Political relations

Namibia is an important partner for the EU, a reference for good governance and an influential voice in the Southern African Region. Its governments have been successfully reinforcing the foundations of the new nation by gradually putting in place the elements of an inclusive, democratic society with respect for human rights and the rule of law.

Human rights and democracy are guiding principles for the European Union and considered to be of vital importance for initiatives aiming to alleviate poverty and eradicate social, economic or political exclusion. In Namibia the strategic priorities for EU action on promoting human rights and supporting democracy at local level for the period 2016-2020 are:

  • Promotion of Economic, Social and Cultural (ESC) Rights, including the lack of capacity to implement the legal ESC framework in full transparency;
  • Promotion of Women's Rights, including gender based violence (GBV);
  • Promotion of Children's Rights;
  • Promotion of Rights of minorities with special attention to indigenous/marginalised people.

In 2009, the European Union decided to reinforce its capacity to act beyond its frontiers by creating the European External Action Service (EEAS). The EU Delegations are an important element of the EEAS, and assume the representation of the Union beyond its frontiers. As sovereign States, the European Union members retain full capacity to run their bilateral affairs.

The Partnership between the European Union and Namibia is based on the ACP-EU Cotonou Partnership Agreement. In a framework of respect for universal human rights, this landmark pact reaffirms the EU’s willingness to make a significant contribution to sustainable development and the gradual (regional and global) integration of African Caribbean and Pacific countries into the world economy. Namibia has made good progress and has reached the status of an ‘Upper Middle Income country’.

Development and trade cooperation are important pillars of the EU-Namibia partnership.

 

Trade

Ever since becoming a sovereign state, Namibia enjoyed preferential access to the European market. Today all Namibian exports to the European Union enter the market duty and quota free.

Namibia's trade balance with the EU is positive. In 2013 Namibian exports to the EU had a value in excess of 12 Billion Namibia Dollars and the value of imports from the EU was less than 10 Billion Namibia Dollars resulting in surplus of export earnings of more than 2 Billion Namibia Dollars.

Since the early 2000 years, the EU has been promoting a new type of regional, multilateral trade arrangement, known as the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs).  EPAs are comprehensive trade and development agreements and their objectives are to reduce poverty, diversify economies and create employment through enhanced intra-regional integration and through a carefully managed opening towards the world economy.  EPAs are compatible with the requirements of the World Trade Organisation. They provide benefits for the EU's partner countries that are not matched by any other trade agreements worldwide.

Namibia has participated in EPA negotiations with the EU and other Members of the SADC- EPA Group, namely Lesotho, Mozambique, Botswana, South Africa and Swaziland. These negotiations were concluded on 15 July 2014. On the 10th of June all parties signed the EPA during a ceremony in Kasane, Botswana and on 6th of July 2016 the National Assembly of Namibia ratified the Economic Partnership Agreement. Within the framework of this Agreement  Namibia will continue enjoying duty and quota free access to the EU market complemented with improved regulations on cumulation, infant industry protection, safeguards and other provisions to take into account Namibia's development stage and its aspirations to reinforce its economic integration within SADC and Africa.  At the same time, the EU will benefit from improved access to the Namibian market, for the benefit of consumers and investors.

Development and cooperation

Development cooperation is a crucial element of the EU's activity in Namibia. Namibia has demonstrated strong ownership of its development, translating the long-term "Vision 2030" into successive five-year development plans. 

Most of the EU's support to Namibia is articulated through the European Development Fund (EDF) and programmed through a multi-annual National Indicative Programme (NIP). On the 12th of May 2015 the new NIP for Namibia under the 11th EDF was signed. Other sources of EU engagement with Namibia are various budget lines (financed directly from the EU budget in support of for instance non state actors and human rights); Regional Funding (through the Regional Indicative Programme) and via Continental Programmes, e.g. the Pan-African Programme provides support to the Africa-EU Strategic Partnership, which supports projects with a trans-regional, continental or global added-value in areas of shared interest, such as peace and security, and democracy among others. Other support measures include soft loans and investment capital made available by the European Investment Bank (EIB) and contributions to the Global Fund to fight HIV and AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. See full NIP for Namibia under the 11th EDF.

EU support to Namibian development will concentrate on some main sectors:Education: The EU will continue its support to the education sector for the period 2014-2020 (under the 11th EDF), devoting a budget of Euros 36 million to this end. It will focus on pre-primary education and early childhood development, as well as a new area, namely vocational training. Under the 10th EDF (2007 to 2013), the EU assisted the Namibian Government's efforts in promoting equitable access to quality education service delivery and technical assistance for institutional strengthening and capacity building. The results were very positive: drop-out rate declined, while the enrolment rate in pre-primary school, the survival rate in Grade 7 and the rate of qualified primary teachers all increased significantly.Rural Development and Infrastructure: The EU will provide an indicative budget of Euro 20 million under the new NIP. The programme, currently under development, will seek to develop the livestock value chain in the Northern Communal Areas. Linking producers to markets will have a positive impact on their livelihoods, on job creation and on curbing overstocking. The EU support to rural development under the 10th EDF focused on three key programmes: implementation of the national water and sanitation strategies to assist in meeting the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs); support to climate change adaptation and mitigation through sustainable rangeland management and conservation agriculture; support to Communal Land Development to promote commercialization of agricultural and livestock production in the communal areas.Good Governance: The EU will renew its support to the National Planning Commission during the 2014-2020 periods. The programme has contributed to supporting the realisation of national development goals and poverty reduction programmes through partnerships with the Namibian Parliament, the Ministry of Finance and the Office of the Auditor-General.

Support to Civil Society and Non-State Actors: Under the 11th EDF, the EU will continue to assist in increasing the capacity of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs). The EU funded the Namibia Civil Society Support Programme, aimed at strengthening civil society's contribution to sustainable development and socio-economic justice in Namibia by supporting the Nangof Trust and the Civil Society Foundation of Namibia (CSFN). Through grants allocated under the 'European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights' (EIDHR) and the 'Non-State Actors and Local Authorities', the EU has contributed to raising awareness on specific matters like human rights, gender, minorities and LGBTI rights.

Furthermore, the EU awarded Environment, food and EIDHR grants under the global call for proposals also between 2007 and 2013.

Gender: The EU firmly supports gender equality and empowerment of women worldwide, working towards the removal of obstacles such as legislation, social norms and gender stereotypes to ensure that women and girls are given a voice and participate fully in social, economic, political and civil life. The crucial significance of Gender in EU Development Policies is recognized in various policy documents. The EU Strategic Engagement for Gender Equality highlights as one of its five thematic priority areas the promotion of gender equality and women's rights across the world. Furthermore, in the new European Consensus on Development, the promotion of women's rights and empowerment of women and girls and their protection will be a priority across all actions. Namibia, like many other countries grapples with a number of challenges in this sector - such as socio-economic disparities, gender-based violence and others. In this respect it is important to understand the underlying issues and data in order to respond effectively. The compilation of the "Namibia Gender Analysis 2017" was facilitated by the EU and has the objective to facilitate evidence-based interventions. The report deals with key gender topics and can serve as a reference for government and Development Partners.

Health: The EU supports the government's strategy to fast-track the achievement of MDGs 4 and 5 (Maternal and Child Health) through a 10 Million Euro 'Programme for accelerating the reduction of maternal and child mortality in Namibia' (PARMaCM), implemented by the World Health Organization in partnership with the Ministry of Health and Social Services. PARMaCM contributed to improving access to focused antenatal care and quality of delivery and postnatal care; strengthening routine immunization, child health services, prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV services. The EU, together with its Member States, is also the main contributor to the Global Fund and supports Namibia's fight against HIV, tuberculosis and malaria with approximately Euro 180 million.European Investment Bank (EIB) has an on-going portfolio of Euro 290 million that includes, for instance Ohorongo Cement and the Caprivi Interconnector. EIB continues to be ready to support investments for projects in logistical infrastructure, renewable energy, water and sanitation and private sector development in support to Small and Medium Enterprises.

Civil society dialogue

Namibia has a rich civil society sector that provides a link between government and communities and contributes towards poverty reduction, good governance and democracy.  The EU therefore focuses on promoting an environment conducive to these organisations, ensuring meaningful and structured participation in domestic policies and increasing their capacity as development actors.
The "Namibia Civil Society Support Programme" aims at strengthening civil society's contribution to sustainable development and socio-economic justice in Namibia by supporting the Nangof Trust in its role as an umbrella organisation for Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and the Civil Society Foundation of Namibia (CSFN) as a funding vehicle that can generate, manage and disburse grants from donors for the benefit of CSOs.
The EU's involvement with CSOs, through grants allocated under the "European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights" and the "Non State Actors and Local Authorities" instrument have contributed to raising awareness on specific matters like human rights, gender, indigenous people and consciousness on various social topics like children living with hearing impairments, and promoting the equal rights of the LGBTI community in the country.
In September 2012, the European Commission adopted the Communication "The Roots of Democracy and Sustainable Development: Europe's engagement with Civil Society in External Relations". The new policy orientations - endorsed by the Council of the European Union - propose an enhanced and more strategic engagement with CSOs in partner countries, with a particular focus on local CSOs. It also calls for a more strategic approach at country level for the EU and its Member States through the development of EU Roadmaps for engagement with civil society in each specific country.

The EU-Namibia Roadmap for Engagement with Civil Society, covering the period 2018-2020 has been compiled through a consultative process led by the EU Delegation, in collaboration with the EU Member States and CSOs. The purpose of this Roadmap is to establish a common strategic framework with a view to improving impact, predictability and visibility of EU actions. 

Humanitarian Aid

The European Union (EU) is one of the world's main humanitarian aid donors. The European Commission's Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department's (ECHO) mandate is to provide emergency assistance and relief to the victims of natural disasters or armed conflict outside the EU.

The aid is intended to go directly to those in distress, irrespective of race, religion or political convictions. Since independence, the European Union has been responding to Namibia's humanitarian needs both in terms of funding and activities, especially in strengthening emergency prevention efforts and preparedness and response and has taken on this challenge from the point of realizing the Hyogo Framework of Action in Namibia.

The European Union continues to strengthen resilience to shocks triggered by floods and droughts through the enhancement of local capacity to adapt to the impact of climate change.