By Mbatjiua Ngavirue WINDHOEK The Minister of Works, Transport and Communication Joel Kaapanda on Tuesday questioned why road transporters were still using the traditional route to South Africa’s Gauteng Province. They could instead use the Trans-Kalahari Corridor, which stretches over three countries and a distance of only 1,500 kilometres, which is less mileage. “It is indeed a shorter distance than the traditional route between Namibia and South Africa. However, there are still some transport companies which use the long traditional route,” he complained. He was speaking at an event held by the Walvis Bay Corridor Group (WBCG) on Tuesday to exchange ideas with important stakeholders on the functions and services of the WBCG. The event, held under the banner ‘Beyond Borders’, was billed as an information-sharing event. The aim was to have an open and frank exchange of ideas between representatives of government, the transport and logistics sector and the WBCG. “I believe this information sharing evening will enable us to exchange views and ideas and address the existing bottlenecks which create inconveniences for truck operators,” he said. The minister praised the WBCG as a perfect example of how Government and the private sector could work together to create an improved relationship. This relationship could work to integrate business potential and utilise transport and trade opportunities to create wealth in the country, as well as in the region. He said that since its establishment in 2000, the WBCG had grown from a mere concept into a reputable role player not only in the region but also internationally. The existence of the WBCG and its important function to attract imports and exports through Namibia’s ports is however less known on the home front. “Hence, the importance of this evening to dispel the notion that nothing is being done to capitalise on our strategic location in the region,” the minister said. Namibia was hailed for having an excellent transportation infrastructure network, in both the road, rail, maritime and aviation fields linking it to neighbouring states. He however questioned whether Namibia was utilising this comparative advantage to the fullest. Namibia’s road network – linked to the port of Walvis Bay – constitutes a viable trade route via the Trans-Kalahari Corridor for imports and exports between Namibia and Botswana, as well as South Africa’s Gauteng Province. Kaapanda announced a Walvis Bay-Ndola-Lumumbashi Corridor Working Committee was established to stimulate growth in import and export volumes along the Trans-Caprivi Corridor. The Trans-Caprivi Corridor runs from Walvis Bay to Zambia and Zimbabwe as well as the DRC. The minister drew attention to the fact that he had just commissioned the completion of the Tsumeb-Ondangwa railway line the week before. His ministry was therefore making progress in linking Namibia by rail to Angola, allowing Namibia to tap the huge Angolan market. Turning to LÃƒÆ’Ã†’Ãƒâ€ ‘ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Â ‘ÃƒÆ’Ã†”Ã…Â¡ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¼deritz, he stressed that the importance of the coastal town as a port should not be underestimated, nor the role it could play in the development of southern Namibia. The railway line between Aus and LÃƒÆ’Ã†’Ãƒâ€ ‘ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Â ‘ÃƒÆ’Ã†”Ã…Â¡ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¼deritz was progressing well, with the Government expecting it to be completed by 2008. Namibia’s port authority, Namport, played an important part in projecting the image of Namibia both regionally and abroad. The development of Walvis Bay as a regional hub and the promotion of the Walvis Bay Corridor therefore had an impact on investment perceptions of Namibia as a whole. When Namport was created in 1994 Namibia had no direct sea links, but Walvis Bay port had grown tremendously and was now competing on the major routes to Europe. Since the first quarter of this year Namibia was now also linked directly by sea with the Far East. These links allowed Walvis Bay port to put products on the doorsteps of regional consumers days before other transport routes in the SADC region. “What we all wish to see are tangible economic benefits for our people in the region, every man woman and child. This we can deliver through potential time and cost savings by offering the shortest possible regional destination route on the west coast,” he said.
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