Botswana High Commissioner to Namibia Tshenolo Modise says the Botswana dry port is underutilised and has become an embarrassment.
The High Commissioner was speaking at a two-day business forum organised by the Botswana Investment and Trade Centre in an effort to market and promote the Botswana dry port to businesses from both Namibia and Botswana.
The forum that started on Monday and ends tomorrow is taking place in Walvis Bay. It is being attended by delegates from the Trans-Kalahari Corridor Secretariat, C Rail Botswana, clearing agencies and Batswana entrepreneurs.
Modise says they have noticed the dry port is underutilised since it started operating in September last year.
“Sadly, it is grossly unutilised and of great concern and an embarrassment for us as this is an significant investment by the government,” lamented the Botswana High Commissioner.
Construction of the Botswana dry port started in 2013 and was completed mid-2014.
Botswana secured a 50-year lease agreement for a piece of land in the Port of Walvis Bay from the Namibian government in order to facilitate and promote import-export activities of the Southern African Development Committee (SADC) members. Construction of the dry port is estimated to have cost around N$60 million.
It was expected to act as a key receipt or dispatch point for commodities either destined for Botswana or regionally providing storage and bagging.
It was expected to offer handling as well as temporary storage services for goods carried in bond by an applicable transport mode, placed under customs control and with customs and other agencies competent to release goods for domestic use, warehouse, temporary admissions, re-export, temporary storage for onward transit as well as outright export.
The dry port encompassed an area of 36 200 square metres of land located at the south-eastern side of the Walvis Bay port next to TransNamib locomotive maintenance and road depots. The port bordered Fifth Street, which eventually linked it to the Trans-Kalahari Highway.
However, the dry port is experiencing hiccups that give the impression that Botswana has embarked upon a project that they cannot handle.
“There is no day that goes by without someone enquiring about what is happening at our dry port and these questions are very embarrassing to me because it gives the impression that we went into something that we cannot handle,” she said.
Modise explained that they overlooked a very important aspect, which is marketing, when they developed the dry port. “As a result, many companies in Botswana are still making use of routes through South Africa, among others, while the Walvis Bay route is more sensible,” she added.
“With this forum, we intend to market our dry port, especially to our own businesses, so that they can become more aware of the benefits offered by using the dry port as well as the Trans-Kalahari road,” Modise told delegates at the forum.
“This is of utmost importance to market the dry port, as Botswana is losing out on its significant investment and it’s regrettable, as the dry port is just a small fraction of a grand plan by the government of Namibia and with the current expansion of the port will be greatly useful,” she added.