As countries in the region strive to reposition themselves to embark on strategic alternatives for reaching out to the World trading arena, Botswana is also pooling her resources together, and arrangements are at an advanced stage to conclude a lease agreement with the Namibian Government on the utilization of the Walvis Bay Port.
The latest practical development in this regard was the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the Governments of the two countries, on February 8 this year, for the development of a 36400 sqm space which the Namibian Government offered to Botswana for use as a dry Port.
Gerald Thipe, Coordinator of the Transport Hub, said, “It was then agreed by the two parties that a lease agreement be signed stipulating the terms and conditions of use of the said piece of land.” Thipe said that the development of the plot cannot be done until the agreement has been effectively sealed. He also said that the matter is still a sensitive one, and that he would rather not divulge the details of the proposed terms and conditions of the agreement since discussions are still ongoing.
Once agreement is reached, it is expected that the country will be able to transport coal from Mamabula Coal Mine and products from Mines across the country. Further, Thipe said, “We will also be able to import a lot of goods through the Namibian Port, especially so because, as things currently stand down South, the Ports are overstretched.”
According to the Transport Chief, it is important that from a strategic point of view the country be prepared for any eventuality, including the possibility that there might come a point when need arises for alternative route.
Information reaching The Sunday Standard reveals that the Namibian Port is increasingly becoming the route of choice for accessing the international markets by countries in the SADC region. This follows revelations that the Governments of Namibia and Zambia, in an information session organized by the Walvis Bay Corridor Group held in Lusaka, Zambia, recently reiterated their commitment to enhancing the transport infrastructure along what is known as the Trans Caprivi Corridor (TCC) which connects a number of countries to the Walvis Bay Port.
Mubika Mubika, Minister of Communications and Transport, had this to say at the occasion, “…as a Government, we have been working towards improving the transport infrastructure throughout the country and major corridors…in order to boost international trade.”
According to a media release from the Walvis Bay Corridor Group, the presentations at the session reflected the competitive advantages of utilizing the TCC. Among them, the completion of the Katima Mulilo Bridge connecting Namibia and Zambia on the TCC; new customs procedures implemented at the Katima Mulilo and Sesheke border posts. There was also the issue of starting the implementation of Automated System of Customs Documentation (ASYCUDA++) system.
Countries connected to the Port via the T.C.C. with the benefit of 5-days transit time for commodities from Walvis Bay to final destination, so far include Zimbabwe, Zambia and Southern DRC.
Regarding Botswana, Thipe intimated that there are strong considerations to erect a railway line running from Palapye to the Port. He was, however, adamant that once, “The issue of the lease agreement is done with, there would be a number of factors which will determine how long it takes us to make full use of the facility.”
The most immediate is that of conducting a thorough feasibility study on the basis of which costs and the nature of infrastructure that will be appropriate can be determined. Thipe further indicated that, by the same token, the length of time that will be taken to carry out similar studies for the rail line including the terrain, type of locomotive that might be suitable, all contribute to a time frame for full utilization of the opportunities availed by the Namibian landscape.