Monday, May 17, 2021

Botswana considers alternative coal transport routes

The government of Botswana is considering a possible alternative route to facilitate transportation of coal from Botswana, which is completely different from the much publicized Trans-Kalahari Railway line.

Reports indicate that the alternative route is currently at preliminary review stages and all indications suggest that it won’t be long before it is upgraded to advanced stage review. The on-going review is considered to be the fundamental reason why Botswana delayed implementation of the much anticipated TKR project after launching it alongside the Namibian government amid fanfare and pomp. Insiders have revealed that the TKR project is gradually being swept under the table as Botswana prefers the alternative route together with the proposed route through Zimbabwe to Mozambique’s Techobanine port.

The route is reportedly more viable as it needs no government subsidies, and the port will be ideally located for Botswana at key Asian markets, which complements government’s ‘look east’ policy. However, there are numerous drawbacks to this scheme. A report by Business Monitor International (BMI) a Research company which undertook a study on the different routes says “the suggested Trans-Kalahari rail route to Namibia’s Walvis Bay port offers greater advantages overall due to the lack of transit fees, and the fact that the route’s terrain and the well established nature of the Walvis Bay port will result in a quicker completion time for the project.”

Botswana’s coal volumes are escalating rapidly, and the country is looking to benefit from booming demand in the Asian markets, mainly Chinese power plants. As a landlocked nation, Botswana is faced with the challenge of establishing a regular, reliable route linking its coal fields to a port in order to capitalise on this Asian demand. At present the Botswana government and Chamber of Mines are considering their options. According to the report, Botswana is also toying with the idea of constructing a small railway to Zambia, running along the existing Limpopo rail network into Mozambique, and constructing another small railway down to the coast. There, near Maputo, the Techobanine port would be constructed. The project would be completed after 2017 where as the TKR could be completed in 2019. The 1,500km TKR will run through the Kalahari Desert into Namibia, where the railway would lead to the Walvis Bay port. The project will cost between US$11billion and US$15billion.

Botswana’s landlocked position decreases its attractiveness logistically. The country is heavily reliant on the relatively well-developed logistics networks of South Africa and Namibia. Botswana’s well-developed transport network aides the country by offering quick links to its neighbours. Botswana is part of a larger Southern Africa transit network. A landlocked position increases the cost of goods imports and exports. Competitive trade bureaucracy eases the import and export burden.

RELATED STORIES

Read this week's paper