Finland and Namibia have long standing relations that started over 140 years ago, when the first Finnish missionaries arrived in Namibia. The influence of the missionary work can still be seen in Namibian society. The Finns established the Evangelic-Lutheran church and developed a health care and education system in the North, where the significant ethnic group called Owambo resides. The Owambo people learned Finnish and some were even baptised with Finnish names.
Later, Finland supported Namibia's independence struggle in various ways, and the role of President Martti Ahtisaari was significant in establishing the independence plan. During the 1990’s Namibia was one of Finland's main partner countries in the field of development cooperation. Additionally, Finland was one of the first countries with whom Namibia established diplomatic relations in 1990.
Relations between Finland and Namibia are friendly and without problems. Finland is constantly mentioned as a partner country and a good friend that has supported Namibia in its independence struggle and helped to construct Namibia in many ways before and after the independence.
Generally, the relations between Finland and Namibia are extensive and diverse. Interaction is lively especially in the areas of culture, science, education, as well as amongst churches and municipalities. Similarly, as a sign of the good relations there have been many high level visits in recent years.
Trade between Finland and Namibia is still relatively small, but growth has been rapid in recent years. Especially exports of Namibian beef to Finland have increased in recent years. Finnish exports to Namibia comprise mostly of machinery and equipment. Major trade deals in recent years are in areas on medical equipment supplies and a marine exploration vessel built in Finland. Namibia offers possibilities for Finnish companies particularly in the mining, energy and logistics sector. Tourism is also a sector where there is potential to increase the number of Finnish tourists visiting Namibia.
Finland and Namibia signed an agreement for promotion and protection of investments, which took effect in May 2005. To date, there are only a few Finnish investments in Namibia, but there expectations for new Finnish investments taking place in 2012 in Namibia.
Development cooperation has been focal in the relations between Finland and Namibia. The cooperation started by Finnish support to a Scholarship Programme of SWAPO from 1976 to 1992. As a result of this programme, 65 Namibian students graduated from various Finnish universities. During 1991-2003, the development financing amounted to 74 million euros. At the beginning Finland and Namibia had bilateral projects in water supply and sewerage, health care, forests and mining industry. Later on, the cooperation extended to the protection of environment, capacity building of administration and development of regional administration. The activities of Finnish NGO's have been supported with nearly 8 million euros between the years 1991-2003. The humanitarian aid has been given mainly as aid for refugees and as food-aid. A new funding instrument The Fund for Local Cooperation was established in the beginning of 2000. The financing is directed mainly towards the development of civil society, democracy and human rights, and the support for culture. The facilitation of institutional collaboration between institutions in Finland and Namibia is supported.
Namibia is a so called Transition Country. In 2002 the Finnish delegation met with the Namibian government to inform about the Decision-in-Principle of the Finnish Government, that long-term Bilateral Grant Assistance to Namibia would be phased out during the next 3 to 7 years, and other instruments would be developed.
Cultural cooperation is high on the agenda of the Finnish Embassy in Windhoek. It is based on the long-standing and broad cooperation between the governments, churches and institutions in Finland and in Namibia. One of the focal areas of the Fund for Local Cooperation is the strengthening of the Namibian Cultural Identity. This is realised by cooperation between Finnish and Namibian institutions, including municipalities, trade unions, learning institutions, theatres and museums. The Embassy supports particularly actors education, script writing, directing, the promotion of the culture of reading and writing among the youth, combining of the folk- and contemporary music, music education as well as recording of the cultural heritage, cinema and the development of arts and crafts.