Government is set to spend at least N$5 billion in upgrading the country’s railway network over the next three financial years, according to the Ministry of Works and Transport budget documents.
The projects include the rehabilitation of the Southern Railway line section, Sandverhaar-Buchholbrum, the upgrading and the rehabilitation of the Auas-Luderitz Railway line extension.
Walvis Bay Corridor Group Acting Chief Executive Officer, Clive Smith, said having a good rail connection will translate to increased volumes of cargo movement, increased trade and increased revenue for Namibia.
“It goes without saying that this will phenomenally impact on our potential to entice international companies to set up shop in Namibia. This also improves our prospects in the manufacturing sector as well.”
He said logistics is a very important enabler, with a multiplier effect that cuts across all economic sectors.
Investing in logistics infrastructure, Smith argued, is money well spent, as it will greatly contribute to the growth of the Namibian economy.
He said cargo volumes through Walvis Bay have increased by 21 percent since 2014/2015, adding that a good road and railway network would help Namibia capture some of the cargo that is transported via other ports in southern Africa.
“Thus with a robust rail and road system connecting the Port of Walvis Bay, Namibia has the potential to capture about 30 percent of those volumes. This is also the projection indicated in the Namibia Logistics Masterplan.”
Smith said rail has its benefits (moving bulk commodity over long distances is safer and more cost effective) and road freight will always be needed when time efficiency is key in the movement of the goods.
“For an efficient and seamless transport that would provide solutions to freight mobility demands and requirements, interoperability is the answer to all problems. Thus, it is necessary to continue developing ports, railway and road connections to the hinterland allowing transport volumes through Namibia to grow,” Smith said.
He said government’s vision to transform Namibia into a logistics hub relies heavily on the service offering to the transport chain.
“It is not enough that we have the most efficient port in Africa. This needs to be backed by far-reaching, equality efficient and effective connections. For now, we rely heavily on our road corridors to move the goods into our neighbouring countries. It is not a sustainable model that will end up costing us dearly in the long-term,” he said.
Smith said the expansion at the Port of Walvis Bay will allow for increased movement of freight.
“Rail transport has the capacity to move the volumes of freight over long distances in a safe, energy efficient way. Fuel and chemicals, for example, are safer to transport by rail. Whereas fast moving consumer goods can still be transported using road. If we continue relying on road only as a means of transport, we will not be able to make that transition, where logistics will propel Namibia into a leading economy for the region,” Smith said.