Namibia threatens Europe’s green hydrogen plans

By withholding its support for an obscure cooperation pact, the “Samoa Agreement,” Namibia risks losing loans from the European Investment Bank.

The European Commission’s plan for a €1 billion green hydrogen and raw materials partnership with Namibia is in jeopardy, after the southern African nation failed to sign a separate multicountry agreement Wednesday that allows the European Investment Bank to lend there.

Namibia was one of 35 countries in the 79-member Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States, or OACPS, which did not sign the “Samoa Agreement” in the Pacific island nation’s capital, Apia, on Wednesday. The agreement is a broad stroke cooperation pact between the European Union and OACPS with mostly aspirational language on topics like climate change, democracy, and migration. However, like its predecessor — the Cotonou Agreement — it also grants EIB license to operate in ACP countries.

Diederick Zambon, head of ACP, Latin America and Asia division at EIB Global, the bank’s overseas lending arm, told the closed meeting in Apia that should Namibia not sign the Samoa Agreement by the time it enters into provisional application at the end of this year, EIB would have no mandate to operate or sign new loans with the country.

That’s a headache for Brussels, which last month touted a strategic partnership with Namibia, “supported by €1 billion in investments” on sustainable raw materials and green hydrogen — which featured in a number of emissions reduction pledges at the United Nations climate conference, COP 26, in 2021. The plan is likely to rely heavily on loans from EIB, which is owned by the 27 EU countries, as well as big EU states like Germany.

Officials from the OACPS secretariat and the EU attributed the low number of ACP signatures on Wednesday mostly to a lack of preparation and hence countries’ need to debate the deal with their national parliaments — even though the text has been settled since April 2021.

In the case of Jamaica and Namibia, however, opposition appeared to run deeper — though extracting why that was proved challenging.

Asked by Devex why Namibia did not sign in Samoa, Obeth Mbuipaha Kandjoze, head of the Namibian delegation, cited “interpretative issues … [that] just do not allow us in line with our constitution [to sign].” When pressed on what areas in the 187-page Samoa Agreement were problematic, Kandjoze said: “That’s all I’m prepared to say.”

“We are worried, of course, just like anybody else,” he responded, when asked about the potential consequences for Namibia’s strategic partnership with the EU and EIB should it refuse to sign the Samoa Agreement. “But the constitution is what it is.”

Business Express/Devex

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