WBCG grows regional economies

Regional trade routes are expanding with significant investment in transport corridors.

20 November 2019 | History

CATHERINE SASMAN

Since the establishment of the Walvis Bay Corridor Group (WBCG) 19 years ago, trade volumes from neighbouring countries have grown from zero to more than 750 000 tonnes per year.

This represents direct revenue of about N$500 million per year for ports, railways and the road transport sector as a direct result of the development of transport corridors.

The WBCG was created in the year 2000 to promote imports and exports through the Port of Walvis Bay. This was part of the Namibian government’s plan to turn Namibia into a logistics hub for the SADC region by capitalising on the country’s strategic location.

Since then, significant investment has gone into the upgrading of transport infrastructure.

“As we are about to conclude the second decade of facilitating and promoting transport and trade along our secure and reliable corridors, our quest to ultimately achieve a robust and lucrative economy continues,” says the project manager of WBCG’s logistics hub, Clive Smith.

Before the WBCG was formed, all trade was routed via South Africa.

“There were no other connections to our neighbouring countries in terms of efficient flow of trade across borders. Our neighbours’ knowledge about Namibia was limited and so was Namibia’s knowledge about trading opportunities in southern Africa,” Smith says.

Obvious opportunities

The Port of Walvis Bay is strategically located on the west coast of Africa and can serve as a strategic link to southern Africa with its more than 350 million consumers.

Smith says with Walvis Bay now firmly established as one of the major entry and exit points to and from southern Africa, the WBCG continuously seeks ways to take the corridors to greater heights and maximise the social and economic benefits for Namibia and the region.

“The WBCG has become one of the key organisations in the Namibian economy, driving the agenda of the transport sector and expanding the role of the transport sector to the Namibian economy and its people. The success and experiences have been shared with other corridors and similar organisations at various platforms, which in turn could enhance corridor development on the African continent,” Smith says.

The beginnings

The WBCG is a public-private partnership to promote maximum utilisation of the Walvis Bay transport corridors, which include the Port of Walvis Bay, the Trans-Kalahari Corridor, the Walvis Bay-Ndola-Lubumbashi Development Corridor, the Trans-Kunene Corridor and the Trans-Orange Corridor.

The Trans-Kalahari Corridor Secretariat consists of government and private representatives from Namibia, Botswana and South Africa.

The Walvis Bay-Ndola-Lubumbashi Corridor Management Committee is a partnership between the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Namibia and Zambia.

In Namibia, individual membership by transport and logistics companies from the private sector is arranged under the umbrella of private-sector organisations, namely the Namibia Logistics Association (NLA) and the Walvis Bay Port Users Association (WBPUA).

Smith encourages private companies who are interested in becoming members of the WBCG to join one of these associations.

When it started out, the WBCG focused on marketing and promotion, but later engaged in securing cargo to and from other southern African countries.

With this, it started identifying corridor constraints hindering the efficient movement of traffic and the implementation of agreed measures to address these.

As a result, the Corridor Management Institution (CMI) was formed to promote and coordinate efficient corridor solutions and the funding needed to start various projects.

The WBCG then expanded its sphere of operation to project management. Projects managed include the wellness of truckers and communities along the route, and the development of a service industry along the corridors.

Because the WBCG deals with transit corridors, it advocated for the establishment of transit-boundary Corridor Management Secretariats whose core function is to regulate and oversee the development and implementation of seamless cross-border trade, transport and passenger facilitation measures.

The ultimate goal of the secretariats is to reduce transport costs and transit times along the regional and continental transport corridors.

The first successful secretariat established was the Trans-Kalahari Corridor Secretariat (TKCS) in 2007.

The WBCG is now working on the establishment of similar secretariats for the Walvis Bay-Ndola-Lubumbashi Development Corridor (WBNLDC) and the African Corridor Management Alliance (ACMA).

The WBCG has similarly advocated for the Namibia Logistic Hub Initiative to be prioritised as a national development goal, hence its inclusion in the fourth National Development Plan (NDP4).

This project is managed by the WBCG and driven by private and public stakeholders with the support of regional, continental and international bodies.

Significant growth

The corridors have over the years grown significantly, not only in terms of volume, but also in terms of reduced transit times, removal of bottlenecks and improved corridor logistics through the PPPs, which Smith said remain the cornerstone of the WBCG.

“We have to continuously identify opportunities and plan, coordinate, market and advocate infrastructure development and trade facilitation. It is therefore apparent that this unique institutional arrangement as a PPP is a perfect example of how government and the private sector work together to improve relationships so that we can integrate business potential and utilise transport and trade opportunities to create wealth in the region and beyond,” Smith says.

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