(ENI) Namibia's president, Sam Nujoma, has given his backing to a proposal by a prominent African Church leader that African countries should set up an economic union to promote growth and development.
Anglican Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane of Cape Town made his proposal for a continental economic organisation in January this year, and recently, at the launch in Ghana of Jubilee 2000's Africa campaign, called for an "Economic Union of African States". Archbishop Ndungane is a passionate campaigner for African unity, having also proposed that the continent's Anglican Churches unite in an Episcopal Church of Africa.
At a meeting in Namibia on 22 May with Archbishop Ndungane, President Nujoma encouraged the archbishop to pursue his proposal, noting that in other regions of the world countries had set up economic unions.
President Nujoma said that the member states of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) had signed a treaty in Nigeria in 1991 to create an African Economic Community. A summit of leaders of AEC states took place last year, but the full creation of the community was expected to take 34 years. "I would like to advocate that you push governments, especially of the SADC [Southern African Development Community] countries, on the need for economic union," President Nujoma told the Primate and his delegation.
Archbishop Ndungane's proposal comes as Africa celebrates the 35th anniversary - 25 May - of the creation of the OAU. In a message to mark the anniversary, the OAU's secretary general, Salim Ahmed Salim, said that "the accelerated development of the continent, as well as its peace and security, depends on collaborative effort between our governments and peoples in a partnership that is solid and durable".
"Africa will certainly have more chance in addressing its problems when our people work together in unity, in strength and in solidarity."
Archbishop Ndungane was in Namibia for the consecration and enthronement on 21 May of Shihala Hamupembe as Anglican bishop of the Diocese of Namibia, which comes under the jurisdiction of the Church of the Province of Southern Africa.
President Nujoma said he was looking forward to working with the new bishop, noting that the Churches had supported liberation movements such as Swapo (South West African People's Organisation) during the struggle for Namibian independence.
"The challenge now is to show the same fire [and] determination in the second phase of our struggle, namely, economic liberation," President Nujoma said.
Bishop Hamupembe, aged 59, is a former farm worker and teacher, who studied in Zambia, where he was trained in youth leadership and community development, in South Africa and in Scotland.