Consultants who analysed “the main regulatory and non-physical barriers that impede a streamlined movement of vehicles and goods” within and between Africa’s regional economic communities are not impressed with some aspects of the Trans-Kalahari Highway.
“Infrastructure impediments relate mostly to Namibia in the form of incomplete road works and narrow road infrastructure. A lack of road signage in Namibia and Botswana and the absence of properly designed truck stops along the corridor pose a safety threat to commercial road transport operators,” they write in The Final Report of the Sustainable Market Access for African Road Transport which the African Development Bank has just put out.
The consultants note that owing to the absence of properly designed truck stops along the Highway, “many drivers sleep in their trucks and stop at multiple locations to rest, eat or access health services.”
Similar concern was raised years ago by the Southern African Customs Union-Transport Liaison Committee (SACU-TLC) and the Sub-sectoral Committees of the Southern Africa Transport and Telecommunications Commission (SATTC). The two regional bodies had undertaken a study to identify reasons for the low utilization of the Highway. In their report, the two bodies note that in western Botswana, where the Highway traverses the Kalahari Desert, facilities are long distances apart, with the longest distance (of 267 km) being between Kang and Gantsi.
“If the utilization of the Highway improved, entrepreneurs would be encouraged to develop facilities and provide services along the route. The three countries have cellular communication systems which can only roam between Namibia and South Africa and between South Africa and Botswana but not between Botswana and Namibia, a problem especially when operators require emergency repairs or attention in case of accidents,” SACU-TLC and SATTC note in their own report.
They found road signs directing motorists on parts of the Highway passing through towns to be inadequate. One such is the confirmation sign, which assures motorists that they are on the highway. They also found the route numbering systems in the three countries to differ markedly.
Resultantly, they recommended that confirmation signs incorporating “The Trans-Kalahari Highway” be repeated “at regular intervals on the route and at intersections in urban areas to assure motorists.” The other recommendation was that service providers for cellular communication in the three countries should sign roaming agreements.