Former Namibian president Hage Geingob died in Windhoek last Sunday at the age of 82, weeks after announcing that he had been diagnosed with cancer.
Geingob’s vice-president, Nangolo Mbumba – also aged 82 – was immediately sworn-in as the country’s new leader. He will serve the last year of Geingob’s term in office, but will not stand in elections scheduled for November.
Mbumba subsequently praised Geingob for his role in building the country’s institutions and entrenching stability. Beyond this, Geingob departs having led and pioneered an ambitious vision for the nation’s energy landscape, particularly the establishment of a synthetic energy hub.
This, some industry leaders, have described as the legacy that Geingob leaves behind, one which should be cherished and continued without fail.
Geingob’s aspiration to transform Namibia into a synthetic energy hub has garnered significant attention, especially in light of recent oil discoveries. His vision aimed to leverage the nation’s abundant resources for sustainable development, fostering economic growth, and empowering local communities.
Central to Geingob’s vision is the pursuit of green hydrogen technology, attracting substantial investments from Europe and beyond. This innovative approach not only promises to diversify Namibia’s energy portfolio but also positions the country as a key player in the global hydrogen economy.
The realization of Geingob’s vision holds immense potential for Namibia’s economic prosperity. By harnessing renewable energy sources and promoting local participation, the synthetic energy hub can create job opportunities, stimulate industrial growth, and enhance energy security for the nation.
This past week, Business leaders, including Sven Thieme, underscored Geingob’s pivotal role in fostering a conducive business environment and championing local entrepreneurship. Through consultative leadership and strategic initiatives like the Namibia Investment Promotion and Development Board, Geingob laid the groundwork for sustainable business growth.
THE LEGACY WILL CONTINUE
The death of Geingob will not affect the country’s rapidly emerging oil and gas sector, analysts said last week, with the ruling party expected to maintain a business-friendly approach to facilitate development of recent discoveries and further exploration.
“It is poignant and reassuring to note that today, even in this time of heavy loss, our nation remains calm and stable …owing to [Geingob’s] visionary leadership,” Mbumba said while being sworn-in portraying a sense of continuity.
Geingob oversaw major oil discoveries by Shell and TotalEnergies in early 2022 which look set to make Namibia a significant oil producer and overhaul the country’s economy. Drilling and exploration campaigns are in the works by several IOCs, while Shell and TotalEnergies are inching towards development of their projects.
Initial government estimates suggested the red-hot Orange Basin could contain 11 billion barrels of oil in place, although reserve estimates at Shell’s Graff and Jonker projects were recently downgraded from 2.5 billion and 2.7 billion barrels to 200 million and 300 million barrels, respectively. Analysts expect Namibia’s first oil to come in 2029.
Geingob made drafting local content requirements for the sector a key priority following the discoveries last year, but they are yet to become law. Still, analysts said his would not affect the country’s emerging oil sector.
“President Geingob’s death is unlikely to have a significant impact on oil and gas sector policy, particularly as the ruling party SWAPO is expected to remain in power following the 2024 elections,” said Ida Hockerfelt, a senior research analyst at S&P Global. “While SWAPO has not yet presented its election manifesto, the government is likely to maintain its current business-friendly approach to facilitate development of the recent discoveries as well as promote further exploration.”
Hockerfelt added, though, that “discussions will probably continue around the possible introduction of a minimum state participation level, where the opposition has pushed for over 50% carried interest.” State-owned NAMCOR currently holds a 10% interest in most licenses.
Graham Hopwood, a senior analyst at Horizon Engage, said President Mbumba “seems intent on focusing on the priorities of the late president, who was his close colleague and friend.”
Parliament will go into recess in the middle of the year to allow MPs to prepare for November’s election, so there is little time to introduce legislation affecting the oil and gas industry, Hopwood said. However, “changes to petroleum legislation, including tax and royalty regimes, and a fully-fledged local content policy, are more likely to be introduced after a new president is sworn in on March 21, 2025,” Hopwood added.
As well as overseeing Namibia’s emergence as an oil and gas player, Geingob also sought to turn the country into a global green energy leader. In 2022, Namibia became the first African country to sign a green hydrogen supply agreement with the EU.
Apart from benefitting Namibians, Geingob’s vision extended to neighbouring countries in the region and beyond. Last year, Geingob told his South African counterpart Cyril Ramaphosa that they should profit from the recent oil discoveries in Namibia.
“Moreover, Shell and Total Energies together with our national oil company, Namcor and investors from Qatar have discovered hydrocarbons not far from South Africa in the Orange Basin,” he said. “This presents us with another opportunity for collaboration between our governments and the private sector in the oil and gas sectors,” he said.
Namibia and South Africa have over 100 bilateral agreements covering a wide range of sectors.
GEINGOB LEAVES A MARK IN THE ENERGY SECTOR
The African Energy Chamber has highlighted that the President Geingob was a visionary leader who played a crucial role in advancing the energy sector and fostering the socio-economic development of his people.
The Chamber described that his unwavering commitment to the well-being of Namibians has left an indelible mark on the nation, where his leadership has maintained peace, stability and will be remembered for its momentous traction in the delivery of prosperity for generations to come.
NJ Ayuk, Chairman of the African Energy Chamber, said, President Geingob made significant strides in the energy sector, “We mourn the loss of a true statesman and a dedicated leader. President Geingob’s strides in the energy sector were instrumental in positioning Namibia as a key player in the region. His vision for sustainable energy development and commitment to the welfare of his people have set a benchmark for leadership.”
President Geingob’s leadership was characterised by a deep understanding of the energy sector’s role in driving economic growth and ensuring energy security. His efforts to attract investments, promote local content, and implement progressive policies have contributed significantly to Namibia’s energy landscape. The President’s initiatives and policies have played a pivotal role in fostering a conducive environment for investments in the energy sector, contributing to the economic advancement of Namibia.