Botswana and Namibia yesterday signed an agreement to start a railway line that will connect Botswana to the sea coast of Walvis Bay.
Both countries represented by their Permanent Secretaries in the Ministry of Transport agreed to kick-start a feasibility study that will determine how the railway line would be aligned as well as the cost implications of the exercise, the officials said today.
Namibia’s Permanent Secretary for Transport, George Simataa, described the agreement as a significant progress. “We have even made the appointment of a consultant to start work possibly in July this year, and both countries are committed to financing the project,” Simataa said today after the agreement was completed.
The PS added:”Rail is an economical mode of transport as it is much cheaper than roads, it is durable, and it takes a lot of heavy loads and that is why we are urgently carrying out the feasibility study which is expected to inform us on its viability.”
Botswana’s Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Transport, Carter Morupisi said the envisaged railway is targeting the transportation of mining products such as coal from Mmamabula and Morupule coalfields, soda ash and salt from Sua Pan, as well as
“It is cheaper importing and exporting through Walvis Bay than it is through Durban, South Africa,” the official said.
The feasibility study, which according to Morupisi will take 12 months is, sponsored by the World Bank to the tune of US$ 44,000 while both countries have agreed to pump an extra US$ 82,000 each. Simataa explained that the tender for the study, which will commence next month, has been awarded to a Canadian company but he was not willing to divulge the name of the company, as yet.
Explaining about the route that the rail line will follow, Morupisi said: “The railway line which will facilitate trade for Walvis bound goods, will pass through the Kalahari desert, a difficult, environmentally sensitive terrain and a migratory route.”
He added that the Namibian terrain is equally challenging, as it is hilly and sloppy. “The study will also investigate the financial implications of the project. However, Morupusi said that both governments will not be involved in the development and are looking into engaging a private developer.