Wednesday, January 19, 2022

‘Botswana needs sustainable transport strategy’- transport expert

Botswana’s World Bank rating on cross-border trading, currently estimated at 154 out of 183 countries, impacts on mineral production and importation of mining machinery, as compared to countries that are not landlocked, Transport Dynamics expert Gobusamang Keebine says.

Factoring that in terms of the time and costs it takes to deliver goods, as a landlocked country, with population of fewer than 2 million and vast land space, Botswana will for a long time continue to suffer transportation bottlenecks associated with freight and passenger traffic.

“The need to have a sustainable transport strategy spearheaded by Government and involving private sector in a meaningful manner is paramount. This would channel synergies towards planning and acquiring relevant transportation equipment suitable to, for example, the mining industry, as currently this is very haphazard and uncoordinated,” he said.

“Led by Government and involving the private sector, putting in place a transportation strategy focusing on the mining industry bulky haulage of coal and copper/nickel becomes critical install correct axle bulk trucking.”

Keebine said despite Government initiatives this strategy has very little private sector input. Moreover, security issues should address lack of harmonised truck utilisation on the roads. The uneven landscape on charges despite attempts to harmonies charges also continues to be an issue, non tariff barriers (NTB) within the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

With the current mining and transportation of coal or copper, how does one chart the way forward?
At the time of going to print, foreign trucking or freight companies dominate in the Botswana mines’ in-and-outward transportation haulage services; leaving local freight entities in the cold.

Botswana does not have a clear-cut transportation strategy, because the industry lacks the organisational capacity of a Botswana Road Freight Association (BRFA) like its South African equivalent. The establishment of BRFA though still disjointed due to its unknown capacity is long overdue, has the capacity to not only influence policy but also direct it.

A Government spearheaded National Transport Strategy (NTS) working closely with mining houses on crucial importation and exportation and also creating an informed private sector on the matters of capability of the transport sector, is not only overdue but critical.

“The transportation national agenda should advocate for negotiating favourable terms at Richards Bay and Durban to reduce delays and with Transnet for priority on movement. The engagement and negotiating better transit times with local freight companies should be an ongoing process,” Keebine added.

As part of the transport infrastructure development programme, Botswana jointly with Zambia have commenced the construction of the Kazungula Rail/Road Bridge multimillion US$ project over the Zambezi opening up transit for goods to countries to the north, such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), said Keebine.

When fully operational, the Trans Kalahari Corridor (TKC) starting from Mozambique via South Africa, Botswana to Namibia has clearly reduced time and mitigated costs.

Botswana continues to discuss a long term though costly strategic option of a railway line linkage heading west to the Atlantic Coast in Walvis Bay, Namibia to the current North/South rail line and hauling coal and copper from central, north and north-west Botswana.

The North/South bound routes to Durban or Richards Bay and to a lesser extend Cape Town continue as the best options available to Botswana exporters and importers. Government has taken cognisance of hampering issues associated with total reliance on these routes, hence the development of new routes, he said.

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