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“We want to see Namibia become the green hydrogen hub, not only of Africa, but of the world"

Exclusive interview with Michelle McLean-Bailey who will add some glamour to the upcoming Africa’s Green Economy Summit as the emcee on Day 2. Michelle is a well-known tourism and investment consultant, a member of the Namibian Investment Promotions Development Board and Chairperson of the Brand Ambassador Programme, Board of Brand Namibia in the President’s Office, (former Miss Universe 1992 from Namibia), and the international business representative (Namibia and USA) for Ohltaver & List. Let's start with some background on yourself and the organisations that you represent.

I'm very excited to be the emcee for the second day of the Africa's Green Economy Summit in Cape Town, the first inauguration, the first of its kind. My background, I've been a global ambassador for Namibia for over 30 years. I founded the Michelle McClean Children’s Trust, so we do many projects in the community throughout Namibia. And I really got more interested over the years in the tourism and investment aspects of Namibia. Namibia is very close to my heart, even though I live in Miami. So I have found the opportunity to represent Namibia while living in the United States, and I work as a consultant for tourism and investment for the Namibia Investment Promotion Development Board (NIPDB). I do various engagements for them around the world as a speaker, but also to bring in more investment and tourism opportunities to Namibia. I also work very closely with the Ohltaver & List group as their international business representative. And I'm very excited about this because it brings together all the wonderful opportunities in renewable energy as I work with them on the green hydrogen pilot plant project that we're doing together with CMB Tech in Belgium.

Tell us more about this project.

So what I love about this opportunity is working together as a consultant for the NIPDB, which is under the President's Office, as well as representing Ohltaver & List, is that I get to bring the public and private sector together in sharing the opportunities and promoting and marketing Namibia worldwide. So, working together with Ohltaver & List, the O&L Cleanergy group and with CMB Tech, we are starting the first green hydrogen pilot plant project in Walvis Bay in a couple of months. And this is not going to be a commercial plant. It really is a showcase for the world that Namibia is ready and geared up for green energy. And so, I'm working quite closely on this project with the private sector as well as with the NIPDB and the government.

You mentioned that this is not a commercial plant. Do you find that finding investment is a challenge in this sector?

Actually, no, not really. There's quite a huge stir in the world, and ever since Namibia was at the World Economic Forum at the beginning of last year, when we launched the whole project for Namibia and green hydrogen together with H.E. Dr Hage Geingob, it really has exploded, and there have been so many opportunities to bring to Namibia investment wise. However, the Ohltaver & List and CMB Tech project is for the CMB Tech shipping company, which is based out of Belgium. We will produce green hydrogen that they will be using as the largest shipping company in Belgium. So, this will be a showcase to see how this actually works. And although I'm also very new to the green hydrogen industry, and we all know it's a very young industry, although it's been around for decades, technology has now brought it to the forefront and CMB Tech is going to be utilising the offtake of this particular plant in Namibia that we are investing in together as two private sector companies.

Tell us about your vision for green hydrogen. What are the opportunities for the continent in your view?

Well, as an ambassador for Namibia, on both the investment side and tourism side, the green hydrogen perspective and the concept that the government is putting a lot of backing into it as well as the private sector, is that we want to see Namibia become the green hydrogen hub not only of Africa, but of the world. We are perfectly positioned in the sub Saharan area of Africa, and to be able to give energy and green hydrogen to Europe, for instance, is a massive opportunity. So, I foresee that Namibia will become the green hydrogen hub of the world. We are definitely gearing ourselves towards the right infrastructure for that, the right investment, we have the government’s support and the private sector’s support. So the philosophy behind it is very sound. I think that energy in general, as you know, we have found oil off the coast of Namibia, we are working together with a whole sector to see upskilling and employment in our country. So you know, focusing on the various aspects of investment into Namibia in renewable energy and energy is going to be very important, and having that diversity is important for our economy, we all believe. But I also see a great opportunity in the carbon credits sector that has been maybe exploited around the world, it's quite controversial. I'd like to see more regulations around this and policies where Namibia can really benefit from this as well. Although we don't have a lush forests with the carbon credits offtake for many, many countries, we do have woodlands and we do have opportunities in agriculture to be able to enter this exciting new market and to be able to add to the upliftment of people in our country, employment, as well as to the economy in general.

Michelle, you are definitely going to add quite a bit of glamour to the event later this month. You've come a long way since being Miss Namibia and Miss Universe. How has that impacted your career?

Well, I used it as an amazing platform to get visibility. By winning Miss Namibia and Miss Universe, you could easily sort of say it's just a very superficial industry. I could have walked away and tried to become an actress. But, my goal was always and has always been the passion to represent Namibia and to bring upliftment to the communities as well as to bring investment and tourism opportunities into the country.

So I have utilised that platform, that title as Miss Universe over the last 30 years to establish the Michelle McLean Children’s Trust. We've seen hundreds, if not thousands of projects initiated and run by us. For instance, an example is together with Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt when they had their baby in Namibia. So, creating a lot of visibility around Namibia, so that the world gets to know that we are one of the safest countries in Africa. Our infrastructure is amazing. We've just upgraded our port to the point where import-export is just going to be the way of the future, including green hydrogen. So yes, it's been an exciting journey. Even though people might have seen me in the television industry for many years. As a spokesperson, emcee, motivational speaker, my passion is working full-time towards renewable energy, the promotion of that and of course, Namibia, and being able to establish ourselves as the new green hydrogen hub of the world.

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