Hyphen Hydrogen Energy’s recent proposal to sell a 24% stake to the Namibian government for the development of the country’s first large-scale green hydrogen project has sparked criticism.
The proposed deal, which seemingly positions the government as a minority shareholder, has raised concerns about the prevailing power dynamics that persist in negotiations between multinational corporations and developing nations.
Economist Omu Kakujaha-Matundu has voiced strong reservations, arguing that the current arrangement perpetuates a neo-colonial dynamic, where developing countries’ governments are reduced to beggars in their own resource-rich nations.
“Resources should belong to the state and the investors should be the ones negotiating the shares with the government, but in this neo-colonial setting developing countries’ governments become the beggars,” Kakujaha-Matundu said.
He said desperation to attract foreign direct investment leads African leaders to open themselves up to potential abuse.
“Twenty-four percent shares in your own resource, makes little sense to me,” Kakujaha-Matundu said.
On Friday, during the signing of the project’s feasibility and implementation agreement, the government announced it has an option to buy a 24% stake in Hyphen. The Government is still on the fence on whether to buy the shares or not, citing due diligence.
Politician Job Amupanda shared Kakujaha-Matundu’s sentiment, saying he is concerned about the 24% share offer, adding that the government might come back and say it cannot afford to buy the shares.
“We must not allow this so-called ‘due diligence’ where the government will say ‘no we cannot afford’. It (money from the 24% shares) must go to the Sovereign Wealth Fund,” Amupanda said.
Meanwhile, president Hage Geingob issued a stern warning to locals not to interfere in the Hyphen Green Hydrogen project, emphasising the need to allow the government and its partners to execute the project without hindrance.
Geingob drew attention to the pitfalls experienced in previous developmental projects, cautioning against excessive local interference.
Geingob said this during the signing of the official feasibility and implementation agreement for the project on Friday, which he presided over at State House.
“We learned a lesson from Kunene where we were trying to have an Epupa. That project died because we listened to the local people. Therefore, the area is still poor,” Geingob said.
Geingob said the public must allow him and his team to fulfil their mandate to create jobs.
Hyphen has been awarded preferred bidder status on 4 000 square kilometres of land within Tsau //Khaeb National Park for the development of Namibia’s first fully vertically integrated scale green hydrogen project.
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