Walvis logistics hub ready to soar

Launched in December 2014, the Namibia Logistics Hub Forum continues to create a platform for thematic intervention and dialogue within the industry, to share information, solicit input and keep the momentum going towards the effective implementation of the Namibia Logistics Hub Project.
It was during the formulation of the Fourth National Development Plan (NDP4), which runs until March 2017, that logistics was identified as one of the country’s key economic priorities.
This followed various interventions by institutions like the Walvis Bay Corridor Group (WBCG), Namport and other transport stakeholders, who over the years have contributed significantly to the establishment of a well-managed industry, capable of providing an increased contribution to the national economy.
The Windhoek Observer’s Eric Nyasha Mhunduru (ENM) recently had a one-on-one interview with the WBCG Logistics Hub - Project Manager, Clive Smith (CS), who shed more light on the significance of the hub, as well as some of the milestones that it is set to achieve in the short-term.
ENM: How far is Namibia in terms of transforming itself into a logistics hub?
CS: To put this question into perspective, we need to understand that we are already playing a role as a transit nation to our landlocked neighbours. In order to fully transform ourselves into a dream logistics hub, we first had to have a plan. This was achieved with the completion of the Logistics Master Plan in February 2015.
It highlighted short-term critical programs and projects for implementation over the period 2015-2025. Currently, we are in the process to conduct further specific feasibility studies on these identified projects. As you can imagine, some of the programs are also highly capital-intensive, and thus our approach incorporates the softer measures we can put in place, without necessarily spending a lot.
I must admit that we have experienced a delay in implementing the master plan, which really is the framework as to how we will position ourselves and what needs to be done by whom and when. We are back on track now, and as the WBCG we engaged in various activities post-master plan, and we are ready to rollout various programs come the first quarter of 2017.
“I must stress that we have the full support from government, through the National Planning Commission and the Ministry of Works and Transport. Government is currently busy with the formulation of NDP5 and I have been appointed as Deputy Chairperson of the Logistics Thematic Working Group. I am indeed highly pleased to note that the entire transport sector’s desired outcomes for NDP5 still talks directly to the Logistics Hub Project.
Greater collaboration between private and public sectors, prioritising essential infrastructure projects, a focus on resource sharing and mobilising funding collectively are among some of the areas we need to strengthen. Coordination of the Logistics Master Plan implementation, which I’m directly responsible for, is one such mechanism that will allow us to have greater unity and a synergised approached towards the development of the transport sector.
ENM: How has the idea of transforming Namibia into a logistics hub influenced the country’s status and position on the African continent?
CS: We regularly engage our neighbours, but also other African countries, and everywhere we go and share our logistics hub initiative, this is received with great enthusiasm. The fact that we are positioning ourselves, not only for own prosperity, but as a greater contribution to the region, is indeed an exemplarily approach.
Namibia in general is seen as the shining light in Africa, and is affectionately referred to as ‘Little Europe’, and everywhere we go we are always treated with respect. This logistics hub concept will only further elevate Namibia’s position on the continent and garner greater respect from the international community.
ENM: What could the current port expansion and all the major road rehabilitation mean for Namibia?
CS: Transport has throughout history been a spur to expansion; better transport infrastructure allows for more trade and a greater spread of people. Economic growth has always been dependent on increasing the capacity and rationality of transport.
Namibia’s transport infrastructure is seen as one of the best in sub-Saharan Africa, if not the continent. Yet, if we are to achieve our dream of being an industrialised nation, we have to prioritise and focus on economically viable infrastructure projects.
The port’s expansion is one such example. Creating more capacity and having world-class operating systems, including cranes and other handling equipment, will enhance our port’s viability for the international shipping community. This was at the cornerstone of our logistics hub dream, and as such, will significantly contribute towards domestic growth, but also have a regional impact.
Our roads not only provide access for our people to major local centres, but also importantly link us to our neighbours. We are hard at work to increase the cargo volumes through our ports, and thus we need well-developed and maintained roads.
All-in-all with a well-managed and operated port, good road and rail connections and a robust aviation sector, Namibia can then confidently invite the international world to trade via us with the greater SADC region – and again that is essentially what we are advocating and driving for through the logistics hub project.
ENM: From a logistics perspective, what are some of Namibia’s greatest achievements?
CS: If we take a step back to four years after independence, the Port of Walvis Bay still belonged to South Africa. We had no direct linkages regionally and internationally; not much was known about Namibia and had limited trade within SADC, with the exception of South Africa.
Through various interventions and investment over the years, we have opened ourselves to the international markets. We have direct shipping routes, comparative transit times to any international market and importantly we are already a transit point for countries like Angola, Botswana, Zambia, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Zimbabwe and even South Africa. 
So we can all be proud of our achievements over the past 26 years, specifically in transport and logistics, given the fact that we are still very much an infant, compared to the traditional routes of Durban and Dar es Salaam. 
In 2012, Namport was awarded the Best Port Operator/Terminal in Africa. This recognises the company or port authority that has maintained the highest standards of operational efficiency, effectiveness and the ability to demonstrate best practices in Africa’s port sector.
Similarly in 2013, Namport scooped the Port Excellence Award, which recognises the most efficient port, based on productivity, connectivity and ease of transport. The Port of Walvis Bays is connected to all major global trade centres, through direct liner services.
Most of the international shipping lines call on the Port of Walvis Bay and have established their own offices and presences. Namibia offers the closest route and shortest transit times from Europe, the Americas, as well as links to the Far and Middle East.  So again, we can be really proud of all these achievements and we look forward to a more robust transport and logistics industry.
ENM: What would you like the Namibian logistics industry to look like 20 years from now?
CS: In short, Namibia as the Dubai of Southern Africa - a logistics nation that provides seamless solutions through a well-organised port, road, rail and aviation network, operated by world-class experts. This will not only allow Namibia to achieve sustainable economic growth, but also greatly contribute towards prosperity in the region, and thus increase our stance as a powerhouse in sub-Saharan Africa.