By John Ekongo
In pursuit of a regional integrated economy throughout the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region, stakeholders in the transport and cargo industry have been hard at work in promoting trade between SADC countries using the extensive and cost-effective transportation links within the Walvis Bay Corridor Group (WBCG).
The WBCG, a public private partnership (PPP) established in 2000, has been at the forefront of developing business. It consists of various transport stakeholders, who jointly work together towards the development of the various corridor routes through the west coast via the Port of Walvis Bay. They also work towards the provision of fast, reliable and efficient transport along the various corridor road networks.
One such initiative was the establishment of yet another corridor link – the Trans-Kalahari Corridor (TKC), after the signing of a memorandum of understanding in 2003. Subsequently, a management committee was established in 2007 to oversee the activities and steer the Trans-Kalahari corridor in its business endeavours.
Recently, officials within the TKC held an information-sharing session with stakeholders and role players to outline the benefits and otherwise of utilising the corridor.
Co-chairperson of the management committee Willy Kauaria said: “The TKC management committee was born out of the need to conduct business in a coordinated and systematic manner.
“Needles to say, the initiative is a huge step towards attaining economic growth and integration and equally a beacon for attracting foreign direct investment.”
The initiative was meant to promote intra trade between the three partnering countries, namely Botswana, Namibia and South Africa. Stakeholders have at times put in place mechanisms that will allow for smooth harmonization of operational conditions such as border controls, customs and excise duties, extended operational hours at border posts, fast and efficient cargo handling and inspections at control gates, among others.
Speaking on behalf of the Government of Botswana, High Commissioner Norman Moleboge opined: “The TKC is a very important piece of infrastructure to Botswana and the regional economy.”
Prior to the construction of the Trans-Kalahari Highway, added the High Commissioner, “transportation of goods between the two countries used to take days, but with the TKC via the Trans Kalahari Highway, it now takes hours.”
The Namibian Government, represented by the Ministry of Works, Transport and Communication also expressed satisfaction with the progress made so far between the three countries.
“The Government of Namibia appreciates the cooperation as well as excellent working relations that Namibia enjoys with the Botswana and South African governments. The TKMC has so far successfully promoted the utilisation of the Port of Walvis Bay via the WBCG, which serves as a central entry point that coordinates international trade within the SADC region.”
According to the Corridor Group, ever since the completion of the Trans-Kalahari Highway, more than 30 percent of cargo and road transporters have discarded the old traditional route via Southern Namibia to utilize the highway, a distance of 1 500 kilometers (some 500 kilometers shorter than the conventional south via Ariamsvlei).
Some of the advantages of the Trans-Kalahari Corridor are the links of Walvis Bay with the Botswana capital Gaborone and Gauteng, the industrial heartland of South Africa by way of tarred roads.
It reduces the previous distance from Windhoek to Gauteng of 1 800 km via the southern border post of Ariamsvlei by 400 km.
It ensures a transit time of 48 hours for goods from Walvis Bay via the border post of Buitepos to Gaborone and Gauteng.
It is in tandem with the Maputo Corridor from the Mozambican capital Maputo to Gauteng, which provides a transcontinental link offering freight forwarders the opportunity to save time and money by choosing the shortest possible shipment times for speedy delivery and is supported by a rail line from Walvis Bay to Gobabis and Grootfontein in northern Namibia with transshipment facilities at both Windhoek and Gobabis.
Under its mantle the Walvis Bay Corridor Group has already established extensive road, rail and cross-border networks, namely the Trans-Caprivi Corridor, which runs parallel from the Walvis Bay Harbour straight through to the Caprivi and well into Zambia, Livingstone and Harare, Zimbabwe, the Trans-Orange Corridor, Trans-Cunene Corridor.
Also in the offering is the Walvis Bay-Ndola-Lumbumbashi Corridor, to link Namibia with the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the emerging markets in the west central parts of Africa.