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Landlocked African state demands progress on rail construction

Botswana hopes the Trans-Kalahari project will help bypass South Africa’s crumbling logistics network

Botswana’s president has called for expedited work to build a 1,500-km (930-mile) rail line to Namibia, aimed at boosting trade and tourism in southern Africa.

Mokgweetsi Eric Masisi made the remarks on Thursday during a meeting with his Namibian counterpart, Nangolo Mbumba, in Namibia’s coastal city of Swakopmund, while on a three-day official visit.

Botswana and Namibia signed an agreement in 2010 for the Trans-Kalahari Railway project, but progress has so far been slow. The line is planned to run from Botswana’s capital, Gaborone, through the Kalahari Desert to Namibia’s eastern city of Gobabis, and the port town of Walvis Bay on the Atlantic Ocean. The train line would reportedly be used to export coal and copper from Botswana, and to import freight bound for the country, as well as neighboring landlocked states and South Africa.

Botswana, a major beef exporter and the world’s second-largest diamond producer after Russia, relies on South Africa for most of its trade. However, South African logistics firm Transnet SOC Ltd. has struggled to ship goods in recent years, reportedly due to deteriorating rail infrastructure and a lack of funds. Last year, Botswana’s transport minister, Eric Molale, said it was taking at least two weeks to offload and load goods at South African ports.

Last month, Namibia’s state-owned daily New Era reported that at least 12 international companies had expressed an interest in the project, which is set to begin next year. The authorities issued a call for investor bids early last year, which closed in November.

Potential investors, according to Transport Minister Molale, include firms from the UAE, China, Qatar, and India. Namibian and Botswana officials have stated that the project’s funding model has yet to be finalized; however, the selected investor will build, operate, and maintain the facility before transferring ownership to the Namibian and Botswana governments.

On Thursday, President Masis said the project “should not be starting, but rather be in its final stages.”

“It is imperative that we quickly address all pending matters to expedite the commencement of the project without delay,” the Botswana leader added.

July 05, 2024 at 04:08PM

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