The Finnish parliament has established a Namibia Friendship group.

The group aims to strengthen the collaboration between the Finnish and the Namibian parliaments and to further the economic, cultural and other interactions between the two countries.

Namibia and Finland share a long history. Finns have been present in Namibia for over 150 years and Finland has had an important role in Namibia’s development as well as in the process to its independence.

Former President of the Republic of Finland Mr Martti Ahtisaari is an honorary citizen of Namibia.

The Friendship Group will be chaired by Finnish Member of the Parliament Hon. Ville Valkonen, who has a personal connection with Namibia.

“I have spent my childhood in Namibia and my wife is Namibian. Namibia is a well-developed and peaceful African country. It is the only nation from sub-Saharan Africa that has an Embassy in Helsinki,” Valkonen states.

Valkonen believes that Europe should cooperate more with the Global South in order to support democratic and constitutional development processes in these countries. This is essential especially in the current global political climate.

“Africa has huge potential for investment and trade and many critical strategic natural resources.

“Finland has a lot to offer to Namibia, for example in terms of governance development and education cooperation and Namibia has a lot to offer to Finland as a stable gateway to Southern Africa,” MP Valkonen maintains.

When asked how this ‘friendship’ will be different from previous initiatives between Finland and Namibia which yielded little if anything at all in terms of good governance, creating strong institutions, and transforming the economy on the side of Namibia, Valkonen says that Namibia is still on a long and hard road towards social, political and economic development.

“The Finnish Parliament has several Friendship Groups for different countries. The groups work in various ways.

“All the members are Finnish MPs and the International Secretariat of the Parliament provides the administrative support we need,” the Finnish parliamentarian states.

“The Namibian Friendship Group will for example host events, meet stakeholders, publish statements, perhaps visit Namibia and so forth.

“Our aim is to facilitate mutual understanding and connections between the two societies, in different ways. The focus is of course the political, parliament-to-parliament level. For example this July I met with Honorable Speaker of the Namibian National Assembly, Peter Katjavivi.

“We hope we can foster friendly and mutually beneficial relations between our two nations. And to improve understanding about Namibia in Finland and about Finland in Namibia.

“The Friendship Group of course only accounts for a very small part of the cooperation and dialogue between the countries, mainly on a parliament-to-parliament level. The Foreign ministries, corporations, various NGOs, etc., account for most of the interaction.

“The development of Namibia is of course an extremely complex topic which would require a very lengthy correspondence! Personally I believe Namibia is faring relatively well compared to many other sub-Saharan countries and has great potential for development, if the basic institutions of democracy, rule of law, good governance and market economy are upheld and further developed.

“Of course the road of economic, political and social development is a very long and difficult road. It took at least a century for Finland to join the developed nations starting from the 19th century to mid-20th century.”

In the photo: Finnish Member of Parliament, also chairperson of the Namibian Friendship Group of the Finnish Parliament, Mr. Ville Valkonen