By Petronella Sibeene WINDHOEK Botswana President Festus Mogae has extended an invitation to his Namibian counterpart Hifikepunye Pohamba to participate in an ambitious under-sea regional cable network project. The under-sea project is aimed at improving current capacity and reliability of the telecommunication systems in the SADC region. Mogae, who is in the country on a state visit announced that Botswana has expanded her connectivity by participating in several initiatives including the West African Festoon Systems (WAFS). This project connects countries along the western coast of Africa from Nigeria to Namibia. Considering that Botswana is a land-locked country, Mogae invited Namibia to become part of the project so that the country could make use of Namibian waters. “Botswana does not have access to the coast. Participation of both Namibia and Angola is very critical as this project qualifies a country for two landing points,” Mogae told Pohamba. He added that Botswana was currently negotiating with Angola to participate in the project whose closing date for acceptance of new members is next month. For a coastal country like Namibia, the required minimum investment is US$10 million, Mogae revealed. Once all these initiatives are complete, the country will have a reliable network of high capacity, high-speed links, which can connect to similar networks in neighbouring SADC countries and internationally, thus improving the region’s global connectivity. High capacity national telecommunications network is essential to create an environment that attracts high value investors in the information and knowledge management sector, Mogae indicated. The Southern African region through its body SADC has been involved in different projects aimed at improving the investor climate in the region. So far, major projects to improve Botswana’s international connectivity through under-sea fibre-optic cables on the east and west coasts of Africa have been established. The country has also completed detailed feasibility studies for the East African Cable System (EASSy) whilst the one for the West African Festoon System (WAFS) is in progress. In the meantime, Botswana continues to seek transit routes through neighbouring countries to link the country to the sea, hence the plea to Namibia. Botswana has already installed fibre-optic rings to boost the reliability of telecommunications links along the eastern part of the country and plans are at an advanced stage for the provision of the trans-Kalahari fibre optic transmission system to replace the existing obsolete microwave systems linking Jwaneng-Ghanzi-Maun-Orapa and Sebina-Nata-Kasane. The project will also include spurs from the main trans-Kalahari ring to the borders of Zambia and Namibia. One of the challenges faced in the region is electricity and today Mogae will witness the joint commissioning of the Omaere-Ghanzi Substation. This, according to Mogae is true testimony of the good relations that exist between Namibia and Botswana. Another pressing issue Mogae touched on during the official talks at State house on Tuesday is the vast coal reserves that exist in Botswana. The President revealed that his government has decided to exploit this coal for thermal power generation and there are intentions to speak to neighbouring countries to import the excess power. The envisaged coal project will also benefit downstream industries and sectors such as a re-link to the Walvis Bay for exporting the coal. He added that the Trans-Kalahari highway remains an extremely important route for the flow of traffic between the two countries. Given that, Mogae proposed that the two countries as well as South Africa endeavour to harmonise and extend the border operating hours along the corridor. Mogae concludes his visit today.
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