By Mpho Tebele
GABORONE- BOTSWANA, Namibia and South Africa are hoping to boost regional trade by improving the efficiency of the Trans-Kalahari Corridor (TKC) network.
This is according to Trans Kalahari Corridor Secretariat Executive Director, Leslie Mpofu.
Mpofu told a group of touring journalists last week that TKC would be transformed, among others, through the establishment of a number of new truck stops along the transport corridor, which traverses South Africa, Namibia and Botswana, with a road network spanning 1,900 kilometres.
TKC starts in the Gauteng Province in South Africa and continues through Rustenburg and Zeerust in the North-West Province through Lobatse and Kanye in Botswana, the Mamuno and Trans-Kalahari Border posts, through Gobabis, Windhoek and Okahandja in Namibia and ends at the Port of Walvis Bay.
According to Mpofu, already places such as Walvis Bay and Gobabis on the Namibian side, as well as Charles Hill, Kang, Sekoma, Jwaneng, Lobatse on the Botswana side and Zeerust on the South African side have been identified as places that will get truck ports.
He said the viability of the truck ports has been confirmed by a feasibility study and investors are now investigating the opportunities for involvement. Generally, he said, transport corridors are important in ensuring the safe and efficient movement of goods between neighbouring countries. The identified spots would provide safety for cargo and trucks while drivers rest, refuel and refresh.
According to Mpofu, the spots would have wellness centres, which would provide refilling of drivers’ safety kits and ablutions.
Mpofu revealed that there have been infrastructure developments in Botswana, Namibia and South Africa with road rehabilitation in Botswana from Mankgodi through to Jwaneng and in Namibia in places like Okahandja through to Walvis Bay.
He said in South Africa, the road is being widened from Zeerust to Swatruggens, adding that some trucks have been fitted with techno devices, which control movement of drivers to allow them to rest.
TKC is known for providing a shorter transport link across the entire breadth of the southern African sub-continent compared to the traditional routes via southern Namibia to South Africa’s Gauteng, he said. According to Mpofu, the corridor cuts the distance by 400 kilometres, making it a more preferred route – as it provides cost-effective logistical advantages to users.
Despite the fact that the corridor is infested with both domestic and wild animals, Mpofu said they cannot stop drivers from travelling at night, as doing so would pose risk of traffic congestion during the day with many trucks along the road.
Reports indicate that trade volumes along the corridor for the Botswana market hit a record high of more than 2,000 tonnes in 2015. It has shown significant growth year-on-year with many more consumables, especially a steep increase in motor vehicles being imported through the Port of Walvis Bay.
The Trans-Kalahari Corridor was jointly built by the Namibia and Botswana governments in the 1990s.
The governments of the three countries are responsible for the maintenance of the corridor to ensure safety of its users.
Although the TKC secretariat is not responsible for the rehabilitation of the corridor, member states contribute funds towards the sustenance of the secretariat.