Plans by Botswana Railways (BR) to build a state of the art mall in Francistown are at an advanced stage. Speaking to Sunday Standard on the sidelines of the Francistown Investment Forum, BR’s Director of Business Services Stephen Makuke said plans are at an advanced stage to build the mall, which will be worth at least P350 million. He added that talks between BR Management and the Francistown City Council (FCC) are already in the final stages and the concept of the mall has already been finalized.
“We have an empty piece of land in Francistown and we decided to utilize it by building the mall. Talks with Francistown City Council to establish the mall are already at an advanced stage. The first phase of the mall is expected to cost around P350 million. We will also have to build a fly over from one of the city’s roads onto the mall and we are currently discussing with the council on how and where to place the fly-over,” said Makuke.
He said BR has identified a lot of potential for investment projects in the second city. He also revealed that BR is planning to establish a cargo consolidation hub in Francistown which will be used for the storage and transportation of cargo.
“Francistown is strategically located as it is the gateway to North African countries. We feel that such a project will help ease the transportation of goods to these countries. There is a lot of freight which is normally transported to these countries through the city and we feel that this presents an opportunity that we should fully take advantage of. We also feel that such a project will help cut traffic congestion in the city,” he said.
Makuke further revealed that BR plans to build an overhaul workshop for their locomotives and wagons in Francistown. He said the project has long been planned but was only delayed because they could not find a suitable piece of land. He was however optimistic that the project will finally commence since the city council has promised to help them acquire land.
“We are hopeful that the city council will assist us to get land especially because they have intensified efforts to lure investors into the city,” he said.
BR also plans to establish a railway line that will run from Mosetse to Kazungula. The railway line will transport freight to the North African countries. Makuke said they are confident that the project will be viable especially since Kazungula Bridge is already under construction. It is expected that construction of the railway line will take five years.
“We will also establish a railway station at Pandamatenga. We believe this would help transport agriculture produce from that area,” said Makuke.
On concerns that BR is making losses, Makuke said the company has put in place a number of initiatives through their turn-around strategy which includes among others asset re-capitalization.
“We have managed to put in place a number of strategies that will mitigate the losses. Our balance sheet looks healthy. BR is performing well,” he said.
In conclusion he said that talks with government are also at an advanced stage to return the passenger train into operation.