Saturday, September 19, 2020

A case for improving Gaborone Bus Rank

Botswana is experiencing what, by all intents and purposes, amounts to a construction boom.
Government has taken deliberate policy decision that those projects that are likely to help a speedy recovery of the economy should not suffer as a result of the downturn.

Such infrastructure projects include the airports, road and dams.

But the major ones are the airports projects that are meant to put Botswana in a better stead as moves to liberalise the air space gain momentum.

The country hopes to get a slice of the cake that comes with the opening up of the skies.

Infrastructure is needed for economic development and it makes it easier to attract Foreign Direct Investment while also giving a helping hand to our fledging diamond cutting sector.

The tourism sector which has been growing really fast as a contributor to the GDP stands to benefit from the enhanced communications infrastructure.

However, one place that authorities seem to ignore, at both central and local government, is the Bus Rank in Gaborone.

Credit should be given to authorities for building the current one from the previous rank that was located around Shoprite Mall.

However, events seem to be overtaking the current one. Like all other projects in the city, planners did not anticipate that one day Botswana population would grow and present challenges.

Roads at the Bus Rank are no longer accessible.
The situation gets worse at rush hours and public holidays.
To make matters worse, these are the times when businesses would be competing with uncontrolled hawkers.

With more shops and commercial centers coming up in and around the Gaborone Station area, the situation can only get worse.

It is shocking that the pedestrian bridge that link Bus Rank with Shoprite Mall has been passed by time.
That bridge is now carrying a load of over 60, 000 people every day, by far a greater number it was meant to carry.

This is a danger to the public.
But it is also a business opportunity.

These are the commuters who stay in greater Gaborone while others came to the city to do business or came for shopping.

Some people say the number of commuters who use the station conduit is higher than those that pass through Botswana airports combined at any given day. It may well be so.
Thus we leave the Gaborone Station area behind at great cost to the development of tourism development in Botswana.

Without good infrastructure in the area, the country cannot attract the much needed tourists.

Already, tourists from South Africa and Zambia use the Bus Rank, taking advantage of the increasingly reliable transport links between Gaborone and Lusaka and Gaborone and Johannesburg.

If authorities do not improve the status of the Bus Rank, it might buttress the point that the lower bracket of the society is neglected.
The area is most used by commuters who work in the city from Molepolole, Mochudi, Kanye, Lobatse and small areas around Gaborone.

Some stay in these areas not out of choice because but because life in the city has become expensive for them as rentals are no longer affordable and cost of living very high.

Improving the area will be attractive to investors who might want to use the area for expansion. Already BR Properties will build Rail Park Shopping Centre at Bus Rank and they might meet some of the challenges.

It is encouraging that BR Properties is coming up with some solutions to the area including erecting a wider pedestrian bridge in the next 12 months.

This decision will encourage authorities to get engaged in the area and help commuters and investors alike.

In future, the Bus Rank will handle bigger traffic than it is at the moment.

It will be wise for city planners to look at ways of linking the Central Business District (CBD) and Main mall to the Bus Rank.

There is no better alternative than to link all the stakeholders.

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Sunday Standard September 20 – 26

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of September 20 - 26, 2020.