Capitalise on neighbours’ challenges
The acting chief executive officer of the Walvis Bay Corridor Group (WBCG), Clive Smith, says Namibia needs to capitalise on anything that threatens the logistics business in its biggest trading partner.
Addressing journalists in Windhoek on Tuesday evening, Smith said the Port of Walvis Bay, which is ranked as one of the most efficient harbours despite its small size, is in a country that is safe and has good security.
He said given its efficiency rating, the port could actually bring more benefits to the country if given an opportunity to thrive. And this opportunity could be provided by problems at South African harbours.
He cited violent crime and political unrest in Durban and elsewhere in South Africa as situations that Namibia could capitalise on, provided it kept up its own level of safety and security.
“They [South Africa] have a problem, so [we could] focus on their problem as a catalyst and avoid those problems,” he said.
According to Smith, the fact that a third of African countries are landlocked provides an opportunity for Namibia to thrive as a logistics hub. He said Namibia’s transport infrastructure remains competitive and the fact that Walvis Bay is one of the most efficient ports, as well as the country’s safety and security, are a bonus.
Another advantage is the fact that Namibia is situated in a strategic geographical position to serve as a gateway.
The fact that the country bridges the transport gap from producer to market could help contribute to regional economic prosperity as well as enhance SADC’s global competitiveness.
According to Smith, Namibia could become the logistics boss in the Southern African Development Community (SADC). He said the country could become a ‘Little Dubai’ in this respect.
“If one looks at Dubai: yes, they have oil, of course they have money, but Dubai’s economy is focused on service provision,” he said.
Smith added that Dubai had a good plan, adding that although Namibia is good with long-term plans, the latest logistics master plan that was done with the assistance of Japan is simple, smaller and straight to the point. A Japanese representative was in attendance during the media presentation.
“Namibia can actually become a small Dubai if we focus on logistics,” Smith said.
According to Smith, who is also the Corridor Group’s project manager: logistics hub, some projects are under way to help the country boost its logistics capacity.
The new liquid bulk terminal at the Port of Walvis Bay is one of these.
Others include the port’s new container terminal, which will be completed next year, and the new logistics hub centre situated at the port.
The country is also busy with some road and rail upgrades and is in the process of establishing some inland logistics centres.
One-stop border posts and truck stops are also in the pipeline.
The Trans-Caprivi Railway (to Zambia) and the Trans-Kalahari Railway (through Botswana) are in the planning stage, he said.
The expansion of the country’s airports is another national project aimed at moving towards a logistics-boosted economy.
Responding to a question as to whether he thinks the country would be able to upgrade the national rail infrastructure to SADC standard and expand it by 612 kilometres by the year 2021 as stipulated in the Harambee Prosperity Plan, Smith said he doubted whether the government could beat the deadline but he believed it was making progress towards that goal.
He said a feasibility study on a new 700km railway to Zambia would commence soon.
The planned Trans-Kalahari Railway is aimed at connecting Namibia to Botswana and South Africa by rail.
According to Smith, these railway projects offer opportunities for public-private partnerships (PPP), as rail infrastructure is not cheap and funding is always the biggest stumbling block.