Efforts to establish ways of opening up trade along the Trans Kalahari Corridor (TKC) were intensified last week with regional integration stakeholders working towards the synchronisation of policies amongst the countries involved.
The TKC, a road network spanning approximately 1,900 kilometres across the territories of Botswana, Namibia and South Africa, could unlock great commerce and trade opportunities to the three economies in the area of tourism, transport and logistics sectors.
Through its secretariat, the TKC seeks to contribute towards deeper regional integration programmes of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), Southern African Customs Union (SACU) and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD).
For this to be achieved, stakeholders indicated that there should be harmonisation of monetary, fiscal and trade policies that will enable the TKC to really operate at its full capacity and contribute positively to the economic development of the country.
During a University of Botswana (UB) and Trans-Kalahari Corridor (TKC) stakeholder engagement workshop in Gaborone last week, the stakeholders implored governments of the three states to make efforts in linking Africa to the rest of the world.
Marketing and business development specialist at the TKC secretariat, Zunaid Pochee said since inception of the TKC, they have so far made efforts to harmonise legislations and procedures to make it easier to travel in the three countries.
He said the signing of the One-Stop-Border bill by Botswana and Namibia has enabled the countries to harmonise customs procedures.
However, Pochee decried the fact that border posts do not open throughout the day, stating that they are working to change that to make possible for borders to open for 24 hours.
According to the specialist, they are seeking to increase movement of goods along the corridor to have 22 trucks moving per hour, which translates to about 196,416 per annum.
South Africa Cross Border Road Transport Agency (CBRTA) senior research specialist, Crynos Mutendera said linking Africa through roads should be achieved through the development of a coordinated road infrastructure in the SADC region.
He said Africa is lagging behind in industrialisation, noting that it is not linked within the continent due to poor roads infrastructure and policies that do not complement each other.
Mutendera urged African states to start taking the lead and become part of the world markets, adding that regional intra trade should first be achieved.
“Let’s make sure that linking Africa through roads is achieved,” he said.
He indicated that the SADC gross domestic product (GDP), which is currently at $5.5 billion, could be greatly improved once a well-coordinated transport system developed to link up communities and countries within the region. “Currently intra trade within the region was only 0.3%, which translates to about $33 billion,” Mutendera said.
He further emphasised the need to harmonise transport logistics within the region in order to make it more efficient.
Director of transport planning and policy, Orapeleng Mosigi said one of the main challenges is that Botswana is a landlocked country and that it is only linked to a few countries in the SADC region by air, rail and road.
“Despite being a landlocked country, we have to be connected to the sea and become ‘land linked’,” he said.
He added that efficient transport links within the region could be used to stop the impending trade barriers, noting that the Ministry of Transport and Communications is developing an integrated national transport policy that will unify all transport-related projects in the country. Deputy board secretary for Ghanzi Land Board, Dothodzo Tabengwa said the Ministry of Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services has imposed some land restrictions along the TKC since its inception.
He noted that villages along the TKC will have development plans.
The TKC was initially designed to reduce transport costs, enhance social and economic integration of the southwestern part of Botswana and facilitate economic integration with Namibia. Since its establishment in 2000, the TKC prides itself in having harmonised substantial cross-border procedures consistent with regional integration and international best practices.
However, the highway is still said to be underutilised, with some citing long hours at the border posts, limitation on driving hours on the section of the highway, lack of facilities on some sections of the highway and the proximity of people and animals on the road as some of the reasons that dissuaded road users to use the highway.