Source: Howard Rhodes

Namibia, a sparsely populated country in southern Africa, is seeking to embrace the potential of the green energy sector by developing its nascent “green hydrogen” industry. This move comes as part of an effort to transition away from carbon-based fuels, such as coal and oil, which have contributed to global warming and environmental degradation. However, critics argue that Namibia’s pursuit of the green hydrogen market is reminiscent of “colonialism,” as the country supplies Europe with its natural resources while internal development lags behind.

Green hydrogen, a clean and versatile energy source, is gaining momentum as a viable solution to decarbonize various industries. Namibia, with its abundant renewable resources, including solar and wind power, holds tremendous potential for becoming a key producer of green hydrogen. The European Union, recognizing this opportunity, has provided grants, including support from Germany, to help Namibia establish the necessary infrastructure to meet Europe’s growing demand for this fuel.

Despite the positive outlook, concerns have been raised about the potential neocolonial relationship between Namibia and Europe. Some argue that the extraction of Namibia’s natural resources, such as critical earth metals like lithium, solely for European industrialization perpetuates a pattern of exploitation. Ndumba Kamwanya, a political analyst, emphasizes the importance of protecting Namibia’s interests and avoiding a new form of colonization. He emphasizes the need for Namibia to address its own energy needs and urges local beneficiation of resources.

Addressing these concerns, the Namibia Investment Promotion and Development Board (NIPDB) is playing a crucial role in strategizing the country’s green hydrogen development. Nangula Uauandja, the CEO of NIPDB, highlights the potential for local utilization of green hydrogen byproducts, such as excess water, ammonia, and brine, to fuel Namibia’s industrialization. By promoting in-country processing and utilization, Namibia aims to derive maximum economic benefits from its resources and minimize reliance on exporting raw materials.

The Namibian government is also working on legislation that prioritizes the local economy’s benefits before allowing exports. Learning from the recent decision by Zimbabwe to ban the export of raw lithium, officials aim to ensure that Namibia’s resources contribute to its own sustainable development. Collaboration between the government and the NIPDB is crucial in achieving this balance.

As Namibia’s largest trading partner, the European Union has a significant role to play in this endeavor. The EU-Namibia business forum, held in conjunction with the European Union Global Gateway Forum in Brussels, demonstrates the commitment to fostering partnerships and investments that promote sustainable infrastructure development. The shared objectives include digital innovation, renewable energy, transportation, healthcare, and education.

While Namibia has made some strides in harnessing green hydrogen potential, it faces the challenge of striking a balance between external market demands and local economic development. By ensuring the sustainable utilization of resources, empowering local communities, and prioritizing domestic economic growth, Namibia might position itself as a global leader in the green hydrogen revolution. Achieving this delicate equilibrium will require collaborative efforts and a comprehensive strategy that safeguards Namibia’s long-term interests.

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