Namibia paints a green and gold future
Namibia’s canvas is being painted with elegant brush strokes and soft shades of green and gold.
By Leon Louw, owner and editor of WhyAfrica
The artists working on Namibia’s envisaged masterpiece, seems to be on the same page in terms of guidelines and regulations. Government has provided a clear background and although it still participates in many activities, it now mostly plays the role of enabler and mentor.
Although there are factions within the South West Africa People’s Organisation (SWAPO), and a growing opposition, calling for more stringent government control, President Hage Geingob and the brain trust of SWAPO have, until now, been able resist the temptation to flirt with the far left and has held the centre.
However, to paint the perfect picture of Namibia would be a fallacy born out of romanticism rather than being realistic. But the country seems to be heading in the right direction, and as it develops, more opportunities are presenting itself.
Namibia is a vast country that is still sparsely populated. Apart from certain pockets within the hinterland and along the coast, it is barely developed in terms of primary industries, which of course, presented the country’s first democratically elected leaders with the blank canvas they are now so eagerly colouring in.
Water, power and environmental management critical
To complete a realistic picture though, the challenges need to be acknowledged first. Namibia is a desert. There is limited surface water. The rainfall is erratic and annual precipitation extremely low in all parts of the country. Although there are large aquifers and underground lakes from where groundwater can be tapped, they need to be consistently replenished.
Whether the current electricity plans with a big focus on renewable energy will provide enough baseload to power a burgeoning industrial sector and budding mining sector remains to be seen.
Water management and power will thus be critical for Namibia. Together with managing and conserving an extremely sensitive ecosystem, it forms the backbone of Namibia’s sustainable growth path.
Namibia’s natural heritage, including its water sources, landscapes, wildlife, and oceans, must be preserved. This doesn’t mean there should be limited industrial development, it just means that all companies operating in, or have ambitions to operate in Namibia, needs to be aware of this.
Most local Namibian companies, whether they are miners, engineers, or tourism operators, have built-in ESG radars, and foreign companies needs to follow suite. They should not only manage their impacts on the environment but improve what they leave behind.
Climate change and other challenges
The Namibian climate has always been harsh and abrasive. Climate change will further exacerbate and emphasise the ruthlessness of a desert system and its extremities. When the warm east wind swirls down the escarpment, it liberates masses of sand grains, which not only makes it difficult to work and live outdoors, but the sand takes its toll on mechanical equipment and infrastructure.
The moving sand dunes in the south of the country often buries road and rail infrastructure. In places like Lüderitz, for example, where the wind blows for more than 250 days of the year, roads and rail must be cleaned continuously.
Nonetheless, throughout history, engineers and artisans in these areas have found ingenuous methods to deal with these problems, and as more development takes place, better technology will enable companies to better handle the worst of what nature throws at them.
Politically and economically Namibia is as stable as it gets. Covid-19 took its toll economically, but the country is on a recovery path, although unemployment and poverty levels are still reasonably high.
Energy projects top of mind
Two top class ports in Lüderitz and Walvis Bay, and world class road and rail infrastructure to connect them with the rest of the country and with the interior of Southern Africa, gives Namibia an unassailable logistical advantage compared to its landlocked neighbours to the east.
The abundance of wind and sun makes Namibia almost the perfect location for renewable energy projects and new solar and wind farms have popped up across the country recently, the latest being the Omburu solar power plant on the outskirts of Omaruru in the Erongo region. NamPower inaugurated Omburu, its first renewable fully owned and operated 20 megawatts power, on Friday 24 June 2022.
It took 15 months to complete at a cost of NAD317-million and was constructed through a joint venture between Hopsol Africa and Tulive Private Equity. Namibia aims to increase the commercial installed renewable energy generation in the country from the current 150MW to 760MW by 2025.
With a green hydrogen project just south of Lüderitz in the pipeline, and on top of that the development of one of the largest gas finds in the world, the energy sector in Namibia is being targeted as one of the primary development focus areas.
Lüderitz is central in what could be the most ambitious green energy project in Africa, if not the world, which will include amongst others, a large desalination plant, wind farms and a port expansion.
The preferred bidder, Hyphen Hydrogen Energy, is set to start production in 2026 and will have the rights to the project for 40 years once the necessary feasibility processes are concluded. The project will be based near the town in the Tsau //Khaeb National Park, close to the Elizabeth Bay mine, and will ultimately produce around 300,000 tonnes of green hydrogen per year.
But hydrogen is not the only thing on the minds of Lüderitz inhabitants. Norwegian company BW Energy is developing the Kudu gas field and has recently finalised a cost cutting revamp that would make electricity generated by the project much more affordable.
The Kudu gas discovery is in the northern Orange sub-basin approximately 130 km off the south-west coast of Namibia. It is situated in Petroleum Production License 003 which has an area of 4,567 square kilometres. Lüderitz is expected to benefit as secondary industries look to service offshore developments from the port. Expansion of port infrastructure is also in the pipeline.
A booming minerals exploration destination
Namibia has become a favourite destination for top-class geologists and exploration companies over the last five years or so, which has given the mining sector a further boost. In addition to the firmly established uranium and diamond sectors, the discovery of new gold and copper projects and the further development of a lithium, rare earth elements and tin deposits, have all contributed to Namibia being regarded as the new exploration and mining mecca in Southern Africa. Although the discoveries up until now are not on the same scale of those that have been developed in the much older and more established mining jurisdictions of South Africa and Zambia, they are encouraging and provides endless opportunities for mining companies and suppliers. In addition to what is already known, there are more exciting announcements from Namibian exploration companies expected in 2022.
If you add the agricultural sector and a tourism industry, both of which are busy lifting their heads, to the mix, the Namibian painting is looking more and more like a masterpiece in the making.
The WhyAfrica Southern Africa Overland Road Trip will take us through five countries in 44 days. During this time, we will drive more than 9700km on the good roads, the bad roads, dirt roads and tarred roads, to visit close to 30 projects in the mining, agriculture, energy, infrastructure, tourism, conservation, and development sectors.
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Leon Louw is the founder and editor of WhyAfrica. He specialises in natural resources and African affairs.
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