Philadelphia Commission of African & Caribbean Affairs holds Reception for The Hon. Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila, Namibia's First Female Prime Minister and Lincoln University Alumna

By Gloria Dulan-Wilson

Hello All:

This is so exciting that I could not limit the headlines to a few sound bytes.  I wanted you to totally understand the magnitude of this occasion.  

The Hon. Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila Prime Minister of Namibia

Not only is this the 158th Commencement of the first Black University, but this first Black University has a distinguished Alumna - The Hon. Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila - who is now in one of the most highly placed and honored positions in Africa - that of Prime Minister; which makes her second only to the President of the Country.  

The role and function of the prime minister is to head the cabinet of the president; make essential appointments to key positions; oversee the budgetary allocations, and work closely with the president in implementing his policies for the benefit of the people.

It is clear that the Prime Minister is more than capable of fulfilling the role, which position she assumed in 2015.  It is also clear that she has had a vision for a free, progressive and solvent Namibia since childhood.  Like so many other students from Africa, she came to the US to study, gain skills, knowledge, and understanding and then return home to apply what she's learned for the benefit of her people.  *Ms. Kuugongelwa-Amandhila* has done a wonderful job.  *(Pronunciation: koo-gon-gel-wah - Ah-mah-dee-lah)

Prior to the commencement exercises which took place at Lincoln University,  a reception  was held in her honor at Philadelphia's City Hall, on Wednesday, May 11, 2016, in the Caucus Chambers, with the Hon. Jannie L. Blackwell and Stanley Slaughter presiding  over he ceremonies. 

Part of the entourage on hand to greet the Prime Minister (2nd left) with Jannie Blackwell (3rd left)

The Prime Minister traveled from Namibia with her husband and two beautiful daughters to attend the Lincoln University's Commencement in Lincoln University, PA.  She was overwhelmed at the turn out of the African American and African community to welcome her.  There  was a sumptuous meal prepared by Ms. Youma Aba, founder of Echoes of Africa, who currently owns two restaurants in West Philadelphia specializing in traditional African cuisine. 

(L-R) Seated at Table: One of Prime Ministers two daughters,  The Prime Minister's Husband,
Mr. Amadhila, and the Prime Minister

State Representative, Vanessa Lowery Brown extended greetings from the Black Legislative Caucus:   "It is an esteemed honor and privilege to bring greetings from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, our keystone state in the USA. We were the first to host the delegation of Prime Minister Kuugongelwa-Amandila to the United States here in Philadelphia.  It is a privilege and honor to host you in our Commonwealth of Pennsylvania for the Legislative Black Caucus and the State Department, to bridge economic opportunity from Namibia to here in the United States of America.  And it's also a privilege to stand here before all of you today and reaffirm our commitment to the people of Africa, and to your Country."

As a symbol  of liberty and freedom, she was given the Liberty Bell of Freedom by the Dpty Mayor of Public Engagement, Ms. Nina Ahmad.  

Ms. Rasheia Johnson, Treasurer for the City of Philadelphia, who had so many glowing accolades for the Prime Minister,  mentioned that prior to her becoming Prime Minister, she was Minister of Finance for Namibia, and managed to  transform her country into a thriving economy through strategic investments, and innovative approaches to economic issues that had assailed the country for centuries.  "I am just excited about this opportunity in the realm of finance.  It's inspirational to look at the accomplishments of the Prime Minister, and Namibia is the top emerging market of Africa - it's the 13th in the world, that's huge accomplishment; with GDP growth of 6.5%. "  She also mentioned that Namibia, under the Prime Minister, has attained and maintained one of the highest bond ratings at a time when  others were experiencing economic downturns; and closed by saying how inspirational it was to see a Black woman in that role accomplish so much in such a short span of time," she stated enthusiastically. 

Also on hand to greet her was Interim President of Lincoln University, Dr. Richard Green, who  presided over the commencement exercises on Friday, May 13; Freddie U. !Gaoseb, from the Embassy of the Republic of Namibia in Washington, DC; Dorothy M. Davis, President of Building Bridges between People, Cultures and Businesses, NYC; Sander Daniel, Holt Logistics; Harold Epps, Director of Commerce. Colmon Holmes, Association for the Development of Human Potential, Inc., and a host of dignitaries and citizens from Senegal, Guinea, Mali, Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, Burkina Faso, Sierra Leone, South Africa; the Caribbean, including Haiti, Trinidad, Jamaica and other areas.  The packed Chambers room that was standing room only, with additional chairs being imported as more and more people began to arrive.

A representative from Mayor Jim Kenney's Commission on African and Caribbean Immigrant Affairs to conveyed his official welcome to Philadelphia as well: "You have given us the opportunity to learn more about Namibia,  for we are neighbors of a sort, separated only by the Atlantic Ocean.  But this is a distance that can easily be bridged via air and sea travel.  Namibia has valuable resources...Namibia is an ancient land with a very young population.  We have much to learn from each other, and this visit is a wonderful first step.  So our arms are open, our hearts are open, we gladly anticipate making friends with the people of Namibia.  Enjoy your stay in Philadelphia - this is an historical and welcoming city.   The Nation's first Capitol, and cradle of Independence. " 

While the  Prime Minister was being presented with a bronze replica of the Liberty Bell, which rings with a small chiming sound.  Councilwoman Blackwell stated, "As You all know, that when the Bell rings, it rings for freedom - this is our highest award."

Prime Minister Kuugongelwa-Amadhila & Lincoln University Interim President Richard Green

Lincoln University President, Dr. Richard Green stated:  "Speaking for Lincoln University, the first Historically Black University in the world to offer a four-year degree, we've been in existence since 1854, and hopefully will make a good impression on our honored guest, the most distinguished graduate of Lincoln University, honorable Prime Minister.  We're looking forward to bestowing the highest honor we have to offer on her.  We are proud of the many firsts among our graduates - Thurgood Marshall, African American Subpreme Court Justice; Langston Hughes (also Kwame Nkrumah and Nnamdi Azikewe - first Presidents of Ghana and Nigeria, respectively), and now we have Priminister Kuugongelwa-Amadhila; and we're looking forward to seeing you tomorrow."

City Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell Presents Prime Minister with a Citation from the City

The Prime Minister also received  proclamation from  the Philadelphia City Council which was presented to her by City Representative Jannie Blackwell as a token of the respect and honor Philadelphians feel for her.   The Citation from the City of Philadelphia, unanimously approved and signed by the City Councilmembers of the City of Philadelphia, read, in part,  as follows:

"City Council, City of Philadelphia Citation honors and congratulates the Honorable Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila.  The Council of the City of Philadelphia is pleased and proud to honor and congratulate the Hon. Dr. Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila upon occasion of her graduation from Lincoln University, her appointment to Prime Minister and her devotion to economy, culture and the progress of the people of Namibia. " She is a member of the ruling SWAPO (SouthwestAfrican People's Organization) Party; she serves as a member of the central committee and national executive of the SWAPO Party;  she has also served as the SWAPO Party Secretary for Economic Affairs; She attained her education in Angola, Sierra Leone, The United Kingdom, and the United States, completing a Bachelor of Science Degree in Economics from "Philadelphia's own" Lincoln University, before obtaining a Master's Degree in Economics in the United Kingdom; She served as Minister of Finance for 12 years from 2003 to 2015, before ascending to the Office of Prime Minister; she modernized the public finances to improve efficiencies in government, and she oversaw the country's first budget surplus, which was recorded for three consecutive years - 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, which enabled to country to weather the storm during the global financial crises;  under her leadership the Ministry of Finance introduce annual accountability, improved financial transparency and parliamentary oversight; the country secured, under her leadership, Namibia made entry into the global capital markets during the economic downturn, and in 2011 entered into the bond market with a bond offering of $6,200 Euro; she previously oversaw the country's development plan for seven (7) years; she has served at the IMF (International Monetary Fund), World Bank, African Development Bank, Africa EXIM Bank, SADAC, 
Therefore by virtue of this citation for her exemplary service in the promotion of the economy, culture and the people of the Republic of Namibia, with sincere respect and admiration of our legislation. " 

Prime Minister:  "Thank you very much Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell, for a warm welcome from the Council.  I thank you all for being here today and for the invitation to visit your City Council.  I look forward to it.  It remains for me a kind of homecoming because Philadelphia was the city we always went to when we were Lincoln University students to get provisions that we needed as students.  And I look forward very much to visiting West Philadelphia.  And I can tell without very much going through the town that so much you have changed - and I am quite anxious to go back to Lincoln University to see what has changed there.  I am also going to take advantage of my being here to share a bit of information about Namibia."  

The Prime Minister indicated that Philadelphia is much bigger than her country; and are even smaller when compared to the whole of the United States.  She continued,   "In the government we have tried over the years to keep our economies on a global path.  We have succeeded to more than quadruple the size of our economy; and also grow the capital by about 3/4 in that time.  And have money to graduate from the lower regions of the country to the upper regions of the country.   We have started project HARAMBEE Plan -  which means "pull together" in Swahili, so we are pulling together."

Namibia is now enjoying her 26th anniversary of freedom and independence 

The Prime Minister also stated that one of the reasons she was glad to be back in Philadelphia was because of the strong support the people of Namibia received from Philadelphians during their struggle for independence.  Namibia had been formerly called SouthWest Africa, and had been isolated by South Africa during the apartheid era.  People in Southwest Africa were subjugated to the racism and cruelty under the South African regime.  Their push for independence was never ending, despite overwhelming odds; and they managed to prevail.

[PLEASE NOTE: This is rather personal to me as well; as a student at Lincoln University in the 60's I had classmates from Namibia (Southwest Africa), South Africa, Zimbabwe (Rhodesia), Lesotho, Swaziland, Angola, Mozambique, the Congo - all of whom were under oppression.  I'm sure we spent many of our hours scheming on the liberation of Africa- especially Southwest and South Africa .  Many of my classmates returned home, and have gone on to help make independence a reality in their respective countries.   To see that my friends from Namibia - notably, the Honorable Hidipo Hamutenya and the Honorable Theo Bengurirab, have not only done well, but have passed the baton to such wonderful dedicated people as the Prime Minister is not only fantastic, but a great example to other political leaders that the youth have a vital role to play in the future of the Continent, indeed!!! ]

During our all-too-brief conversation, I  congratulated her on her wonderful accomplishment,  and told her how proud I was of her accomplishment as a Lincoln woman.  She has  distinguished herself in so many wonderful ways.   Of course, when I attended Lincoln as one of the first on-campus coeds, there were only 16 females and 600 males on the campus - that was in 1965, when Lincoln decided to become fully co-ed.  

The Prime Minister of Namibia and Gloria Dulan-Wilson 
The Prime Minister laughed when I told her I had graduated from Lincoln in 1967 - which happened to have been the year she was born, and stated "You've blazed the trail for us, and made it possible for us to take it forward.  Women are now in the majority at Lincoln, and there are so many who hare making great strides."  She also stated that it was her attendance at Lincoln University that helped her clarify what she wanted to do, and how she wanted to serve her people.  

But she did not expect such a large turn out, or that she would be so honored by her Alma Mater.  She was thrilled at being bestowed with an honorary Doctorate, and spoke of how revered Lincoln was in Namibia and other parts of Southern Africa.  Lincoln has always had a relatively large student body population from across Africa.

Flag of Namibia

Her economic agenda for Namibia has distinguished the country in so many ways, including setting it up to be a port of call and port of entry for import-export shipping businesses; incentivizing investors to invest in businesses in Namibia, while simultaneously protecting the people from exploitation and losing their properties during expansion.  She has installed simultaneous incentives for the development of human resources so that Namibians can take advantage of business development and job opportunities, hone their skills, and progress along with the rest of the country.  "We have put together incentives across the board to look at what  can be done and opportunities for increased trading for the rest of the country," she stated proudly.  She also mentioned that one of the investors who will be using the port in Namibia is based in Philadelphia, and hopes that it will be an opportunity to expand into more business opportunities between the two entities.

The Prime Minister addressing the reception guests at Philadelphia's City Hall Council Chambers

The Prime Minister, who was also being honored that same evening by local businesses in Philadelphia that are actively involved in business development in Namibia, spoke of the need for future interaction between Black businesses in Philadelphia and in Namibia - partly because of the kindred spirit she felt for Philadelphia as a home away from home, but also because of the increased opportunities for small investors to play a more pivotal role.  She mentioned the fact that, while the US had their own goods and services that they exported to Africa, Namibia, likewise, had quality products that they would like to ship to the US.  

The opportunity for synergy is definitely one that should and must be explored on both sides.  In the interim, it is clear to see why Namibia has selected Ms. Kuugongelwa-Amadhila to serve as their Prime Minister - she is not only a shrewd business woman, but she has a heart for her country, she's not afraid to be creative, think outside of the box, and put people first, while continuing to advance the bottom line and the goals of the Republic of Namibia.  Congratulations to her on her accomplishments and on receiving the Honorary Doctorate from Lincoln University.

Stay Blessed &
Hail! Hail!  LINCOLN!!



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