Road and rail links in southern Africa are expected to improve dramatically, thanks to a loan of US$186 million that has been granted to Botswana by the World Bank.
The government of Botswana will cover the remaining funding with US$159 million while the OPEC fund for international development has offered a sum of US$40 million.
The Integrated Transport Project will see Botswana, South Africa, Zambia and Namibia becoming ever-easier to traverse, which will reduce transport costs and make trade a whole lot easier within the region. The project will also help Botswana to diversify its economy beyond its dependency on diamonds.
Lead Transport Economist of the World Bank, Supee Teravaninthorn, feels that Botswana’s high economic growth and political stability, coupled with its sophisticated development agenda, make it ripe for this kind of investment.
“The proposed project aims to provide the necessary capacity building and the infrastructure improvement which will, in turn, increase its competitive edge required for opening up the opportunity for export diversification,” Teravaninthorn said.
He pointed out that it would increase employment opportunities and potentially aid poor and disadvantaged members of the community.
Upgrading its transport infrastructure will ensure that Botswana is able to grab a share of the larger global market, by being strategically centered in Africa’s southern region. Linking Botswana to the regional supply-chain makes sound economic sense.
It is expected that the project will take about seven to 10 years to come to full fruition ÔÇô but, in the meantime, Botswana needs to look at revamping and modernising its transport system.
According to the World Bank, there are two components of the project: to offer major technical assistance to Botswana, with an emphasis on capacity building and institutional strengthening; and to make physical improvements to infrastructure.
Capacity building ÔÇô at a cost of US$6,0 million ÔÇô will include assessing the role of the transport sector in the regional integration vision of Botswana; conducting an inter-modal transport planning study; supporting the Public Enterprises Evaluation and Privatisation Agency (PEEPA) with its infrastructure projects; and ensuring knowledge transfer and institutional strengthening and training take place.
Physical investment will cost US$ 162 million, 40 percent of which will be funded by the World Bank. This encompasses matters like tender documents, conceptual designs, civil works and the management of contracts, technical and financial audits, and road maintenance and rehabilitation.
“The road networks covered by the project are either primary road networks or urban roads where indigenous people’s settlements are not found or where their interests are not at stake,” Teravaninthorn added.