By Surihe Gaomas
Mata-Mata Border Post
Three Heads of State – President Hifikepunye Pohamba of Namibia, President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa and President Festus Mogae of Botswana – officially opened Mata-Mata Tourist Access Facility on Friday.
The historic opening of the Mata-Mata Tourist Access Facility – serving Namibia, Botswana and South Africa – is a major economic and tourism boost, particularly in light of the 2010 FIFA Soccer Word Cup showcase.
The tourist facility lies on the border of the Kgalagadi Transfontier Park of Botswana and Namibia.
Addressing over 500 dignitaries gathered to witness the occasion, President Mbeki said: “Let us embrace the tourism as well as the social and economic opportunities that are presented by the natural endowment of our transfrontier parks, as we prepare for the 2010 FIFA Soccer World Cup and the years beyond.”
Besides serving as an entry point for tourists and visitors from Namibia, South Africa and Botswana, the tourist access facility located 563 kilometres from Windhoek in the Keetmanshoop district, strengthens the cultural and social ties of indigenous people living around that area.
The inauguration of the facility comes exactly seven years and five months after the signing of a treaty between South Africa and Botswana that saw the launch of the Kgalagadi Transfontier Park at Twee Rivieren in South Africa.
The Mata-Mata Access Tourist Facility therefore serves as a strategic physical linkage between Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park and !Ais/!Ais-Richterveld.
President Pohamba stressed the cultural and environmental advantage of the tourist facility, as it not only provides easy access for tourists to cross over, but also ensures deeper regional integration of cultures and enterprise development.
“This presents opportunities for communities living in and around these conservation areas to establish income-generating enterprises to diversify their incomes and improve livelihoods and reduce poverty,” said Pohamba.
The Head of State said that with cultural tourism, communities around the Mata-Mata border area can be brought closer together as they share the same history, morals, ethics and cultural values.
On his part Botswana President, Festus Mogae, said the opening of Mata- Mata Border Post would inevitably increase tourism revenues.
Mogae said lack of access for tourists from Namibia into the Kgalagadi Transfontier Park was one of the hurdles identified during the launch of the park in May 2000.
“The opening of this access facility will effectively remove one of the hurdles that hindered the smooth flow of visitors by facilitating easy entry and movement of regional and international tourists into and through this park, thus increasing its market share,” said Mogae.
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