The legacy of President Hage Geingob, a true African giant

By NJ Ayuk, Executive Chairman, African Energy Chamber

On Monday morning, February 4, many of us woke to the news of the tragic passing of Namibian President Hage Geingob.

The death of this great man and remarkable leader is a tremendous loss. The African Energy Chamber extends our deepest sympathies, both to President Geingob’s family and to the people of Namibia.

It’s difficult to express how much President Geingob meant to us. He spoke so glowingly about our work, and we looked to him with great respect. I’m grateful that I got to see and hear him up close just a few months ago at African Energy Week (AEW).

We spent a lot of time talking that week, and I can honestly say that President Geingob was one of the funniest presidents I have met. Not only that, but his memory, resolve, and intellectual depth were surreal. He was truly a deep thinker.

How ironic that he opened his speech at AEW with a tribute to former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari, who had just died. And now, a few months later, President Geingob has gone on to his final rest.

Important Place in History
When I think of President Geingob, my thoughts go to his recent accomplishments and the positive impact he made since he was elected to his first term in 2015.

I think about his visionary leadership, his integrity, and his wise approach to building Namibia’s hydrocarbon and renewable energy sectors. But his critical place in Namibia’s history was firmly cemented long before he became president.

Geingob was Namibia’s first prime minister. He took that role in 1990, immediately after the country gained independence from South Africa. He served as prime minister until 2002, and again from 2008 to 2012.

He also served as president of Namibia’s ruling SWAPO Party (The South West Africa People’s Organisation), which formed as a liberation movement in 1960 when Namibia (then known as South-West Africa) was under the administration of South Africa.

Going back even further, Geingob was a respected anti-apartheid activist who spent nearly 30 years in exile in Botswana and the United States.

In 1964, he was the SWAPO representative at the United Nations and to the Americas. He went on to be the founding director of the UN Institute for Namibia, an educational body set up by the United Nations Council for Namibia in 1976.

Later, Geingob was elected chairman of the constituent assembly that was responsible for drafting the Namibian constitution.

Impactful Leadership
As president of Namibia, Geingob was known for his wisdom, diplomacy, and unwavering commitment to the well-being of Namibians.

I would add that some of his greatest moments as a leader took place behind the scenes, as he laid the foundation for a successful Namibian energy industry.

Namibia made global headlines in 2022 after Shell and TotalEnergies announced massive offshore oil and gas discoveries there. But neither those discoveries, nor the flurry of exploration activity that followed, took place in a vacuum. They were the result of leadership that recognized the critical roles of good governance, stability, and business-friendly policies in encouraging investment. Namibia has Geingob to thank for that.

The country also has Geingob to thank for committing to using a portion of Namibia’s natural gas resources to meet domestic needs. That wise course will bolster energy security, paving the way for economic growth and industrialization.

Likewise, Namibia has Geingob to thank for its rapidly developing green hydrogen sector, which will lead to even more jobs, business opportunities, and access to electricity for Namibians.

These accomplishments, among countless others, led the African Energy Chamber to award President Geingob our 2023 Lifetime Achievement Award during AEC in Cape Town last October.

The award recognizes African leaders who have taken bold steps to improve the socioeconomic development and the well-being of Africans by accelerating energy sector growth in our continent.

As I’ve said more than once, Namibia stands as a shining example of what can be achieved through visionary leadership and a commitment to sustainable development.

Under President Geingob’s guidance, Namibia’s energy sector has become a beacon of opportunity, attracting major investments and driving innovation.

President Geingob was truly an African giant, one whom far too many people didn’t know about. I’m glad I did, and I’m glad we were able to honor his efforts.