Namibia Logistics Hub Project: A catalyst for economic growth
A third of African countries are landlocked, making them reliant on maritime countries for their international trade.
Burdened with the added challenge of higher transportation costs and cumbersome border-crossing delays, this leads to a higher cost of doing business for them.
Efficient road transport and improved customs procedures between landlocked and developing countries can transform their trade potential and overall sustainable development. Logistics affects the rate of inflation, interest rates, productivity, energy costs and other aspects of the economy. Products travel huge distances in Africa and cross multiple borders to reach their end markets. It is thus crucial for us to employ proper logistics management, which includes the planning, implementation and effective forward and reverse flow of goods from origin to recipient, if we are to positively influence economic growth.
In the Namibian context, recent studies indicate that our small population and domestic market, weak employment generation, as well as the dependent economic relationship with South Africa hamper our economic development.
In order to achieve our industrialisation goals, as captured in our Vision 2030, the Namibia government continues to roll out national programmes. One such programme is the Namibia Logistics Hub Project.
It is an ambitious initiative to exploit the countries latent advantage, its strategic location, to transform Namibia into the preferred logistics and distribution centre for landlocked SADC countries.
Through our world-class commercial port at Walvis Bay, international shipping connection and the added advantage of being a secure gateway to the west coast of Africa, Namibia plays an increasingly important role in trade, linking the global economic centres with close to 300 million consumers in Southern Africa.
Supporting the flow of goods is the Walvis Bay corridors, which is a network of rail and roads linking the ports of Walvis Bay and Lüderitz with the four main routes to Angola, Botswana, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Malawi, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Developing the Walvis Bay corridors started some 19 years back. With the effective promotion of the country’s transport network through the Walvis Bay Corridor Group (WBCG), Namibia is today recognised for its increasing role as a transport hub.
In order to prepare for the further development of Namibia as a logistics hub, the government commissioned the conception of a master plan for developing an international logistics hub for SADC countries in Namibia. The Namibia Logistics Master Plan was completed in 2015.
It established a development framework to transform Namibia into one of the regional logistics centres servicing SADC. It further proposed a list of strategic and priority projects with a timeline, supported by a detailed intervention process.
Critical components to ensure the realisation of the logistics master plan includes logistics hub centre development, upgrading of road and rail infrastructure, a truck-stop development programme, a market promotion programme, as well as an integrated border management programme for our major border towns.
Considering recent industry developments, Namibia’s logistics and economic aspirations are well on track to being realised. Several industry projects are at varying stages of progression, which shows the Namibian government’s commitment to developing the sector to better position itself as a viable transport link to the region.
The brand-new container terminal, commissioned at the Port of Walvis Bay in August this year, offers increased capacity and enhanced efficiency for cargo throughput. The creation of dry ports for the landlocked countries of Botswana, Zimbabwe, and Zambia in the port further aids Africa’s vision of stronger linkages with neighbouring countries.
Priority projects related to road and rail infrastructure are additionally enjoying attention. Not taking into account the ongoing three major road construction projects currently in progress, a further five more road upgrades are planned on the Walvis Bay corridors, which are crucial links to neighbouring countries.
Maintenance on the Namibian railway network has commenced with the upgrading of the Walvis Bay to Tsumeb section of the railway line. The government plans to further extend the railway network, building rail infrastructure that will link to the neighbouring countries of Botswana and Zambia in the foreseeable future. The realisation of this infrastructure will see an easing of heavy cargo on the road system and furthermore lower landside transport costs into the region.
According to the Namibia State of Logistics Report for 2018, which was launched earlier this year, the logistics industry has the potential to contribute 4.6% to Namibia’s GDP, if properly realised. As the implementing agency of the country's logistics master plan, which seeks to transform Namibia into a regional transit hub, the Walvis Bay Corridor Group's core focus area remains to sustain the momentum gained thus far.
“To see this plan realised will take collaborative efforts from many key industry stakeholders in both the public and private sector. The WBCG is perfectly positioned to orchestrate this mammoth task,” says WBCG CEO Hippy Tjivikua.
Due to the group’s constitution as a public–private partnership (PPP), it is able to lean on the public sector for advice and action on issues such as customs, transport regulation and infrastructure development, while the private sector can focus on business development, such as marketing, and making practical operational proposals and logistics solutions. Both arms provide input into developing human resources, the institutions themselves and the associated infrastructure.
According to Tjivikua, the recent major infrastructure development and programmes under the Namibia Logistics Hub Project gives credence to the potential of Namibia to enhance regional trade and to greatly contribute towards the African Continental Free-Trade Agreement implementation.