Trans-Kalahari Railway Deal Signed

A railway line connecting Botswana to the Namibian Atlantic coast is finally about to be developed, following the signing of the agreement between the two countries last week at Bird Island near Walvis Bay. The 1 500 kilometres long railway line would traverse the vast semi-arid, sandy savannah of the Kalahari desert from Botswana to Namibia, with the sole benefit of connecting the land-locked Botswana to Namibia’s port of Walvis Bay, thus unlocking the value of coal mining in Botswana and power generation in the region.

The railway line mirrors the existing Trans-Kalahari Highway or corridor, which links Botswana to the port of Walvis Bay, but stretches 1 900 kilometres from Walvis Bay, through Windhoek, Gaborone in Botswana and Johannesburg to Pretoria in South Africa. The just signed Trans-Kalahari railway agreement includes adding a coal terminal and associated loading facilities to the Namibia-Botswana corridor that would benefit other landlocked Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries like Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe by providing alternative transportation routes.

Signing the agreement were Namibia’s National Planning Commission Director-General, Tom Alweendo and Botswana’s Minister of Minerals, Energy and Water Resources Onkokame Kitso Mokaila. The signing ceremony took place at the exact location where the Namibia Ports Authority (Namport) intends to construct the North Port Bulk Container Terminal. The bulk container terminal would be used to store coal transported via the Trans Kalahari railway, scheduled for completion in 2019.

Construction of the project is expected to cost approximately N$100 billion (about US$9.2 billion). Financing will be sourced through private stakeholders. The Trans-Kalahari Highway was constructed at a cost of N$850 million and opened in 1998. “The development of the TKR and commodity handling facilities in Walvis Bay will go a long way in facilitating the development of the estimated 212 billion tonnes of the coal resource in Botswana in power generation and others,” Mokaila said last week.

Alweendo during the signing ceremony said the agreement is a clear testimony that Africa is on the rise although the continent still faces numerous challenges. “Africa is growing and is no longer the dark continent it use to be. However, the continent has its own challenges of which one is infrastructure. Therefore the Trans-Kalahari railway project is very important to the rest of the continent as well. It has also awakened Africa to realise the importance of investing in our infrastructure,” Alweendo said. He went on to say that the TKR project also serves as encouragement not, only for the SADC region, but for the rest of the continent and suggests that more African countries should undertake projects of this magnitude collectively.

“Such projects will increase trade, create employment and business opportunities for many Africans,” he said. According to Alweendo trade figures between Namibia and Botswana, excluding diamond trading are still under N$300 million, hence the importance of the railway since it will significantly increase trade figures. “The TKR will stimulate economic growth, employment and diversification in our two countries,” said Mokaila. Also attending the signing ceremony were the Namibian Minister of Trade and Industry Calle Schlettwein and the Minister of Mines and Energy, Erkki Nghimtina. Additional reporting by Eveline de Klerk in Walvis Bay.

Source : New Era