Linking the Coast and the North

…RA’s 402km Swakopmund – Kamanjab highway progresses

By Hilary Mare

ROADS are the arteries through which the economy pulses. By linking producers to markets, workers to jobs, students to school, and the sick to hospitals, roads are vital to any development agenda.

In essence, Namibia, through the Roads Authority (RA) has been working to reduce the distance between people, markets, services and knowledge through a robust road network that has also seen the country’s roads ranked among the best in the region and continent at large.

Among RA’s numerous road projects that continue contribute to economic development and growth and bring important social benefits is the MR 44/76: Swakopmund – Henties Bay – Uis – Khorixas – Kamanjab road which is currently under construction.

The road project consists of the MR44 and the MR76, and stretches from Swakopmund to Henties Bay (the MR44) along the western coast of Namibia, and then continues to Uis along the MR76, then to Khorixas and ends at Kamanjab in the Kunene Region.

Talking about the project this week, RA Chief Executive Officer, Conrad Lutombi explained that the project as of September 2019  had not only managed to create 254 jobs for Namibians but progressed in creating an economic link and shorter link which will connect the port of Walvis Bay to the Northern Regions of Namibia.

“The route will enhance and efficiently accommodate movement of goods between Angola and Namibia through the Ports of Walvis Bay and will also be a shorter link between Angola and the Coastal towns of Namibia including to South Africa.

“The project will contribute to poverty alleviation through better accessibility to health and education services, markets, public transport and other facilities/services for the people in both Erongo and Kunene Region. Apart from this, employment creation during construction period will be rife, there will be promotion of tourism and economic activities as the project passes through the Dorob National park and the Namibian Desert and the route will also have improved safety standards in terms of geometric design,” Lutombi explained in awe of the project which is one of the longest route projects ever undertaken by the RA.

The project is divided into two phases. The first phase starts from Swakopmund to Uis via Henties Bay and it is 186km long. This same phase is further sub-divided into 2 sections namely Section A which is from Swakopmund to Henties Bay (along MR44) measuring 90km and section B which is from Henties Bay to Uis (along MR76) measuring 96km.

Phase two which seeks to upgrade 220km to bitumen standards will also consist of  two sections namely section A which is from Kamanjab to Khorixas (along MR76) measuring 105km and section B which is from Khorixas to Uis (along MR76) measuring 115km.

Although virtual connectivity has become increasingly important today with the emergence of new communication avenues, RA acknowledges that a good and reliable transport network remains vital.

Indeed therefore, there is a very strong positive correlation between a country’s economic development and the quality of its road network in that infrastructure determines the longevity and success of a nation. In this view, Lutombi has noted the challenges experienced in the progression of the project but at the same highlights that RA will continue to ensure that the project realise the completion dates.

“Of course there are challenges that we are facing with this major road project. Late payments continue to be a major concern that subsequently affects the Contractor’s production resulting in interest claims and suspension of works, which also results in huge claims of idling costs and idling labour. A limited budget for the project will significantly influence the project because of claims and CPA rates coming into effect.

“While these challenges are there, they are a common feature of these projects, we will continue to work hard so we can alleviate the challenges and attain the envisaged objectives of the project,” Lutombi remarked.

Minister of Works and Transport, John Mutorwa in view road construction in the coastal towns of Namibia said that these roads are very important infrastructures that play a role in the development of the nation.

“These infrastructures are an investment in the present and future of this country. Yes it is hard work but this is what is needed for our industrialisation, economic development and for connecting countries. In our case also, these roads are for connecting the regions that we have. For example, this road that goes to Uis links Erongo and Kunene.”

The desired outcome of the NDP5 Transport and Logistics Strategy, 2017 – 2022 is that by 2022, Namibia will have a safe, reliable, affordable and sustainable transport infrastructure and a world-class logistics hub connecting SADC to international markets.

In terms of the road sector, the desired outcome is to increase km road upgraded to bitumen standards with 1,850 km.

NDP5 takes a holistic and integrated approach to transport planning, including the multimodal and intermodal approach to handling goods, transporting people and providing services in accordance with the Road Transport Master Plan and Logistics Hub plans for SADC countries.

In this light, Road Fund Administration (RFA)’s Board Chairperson Penda Ithindi highlighted that a functional and efficient transport and logistics sector is the backbone for the realisation of the NDP5 targets in agriculture, mining, manufacturing, fisheries, rural and urban development and tourism, adding that it is also a critical factor in promoting environmental sustainability.

“Agenda 2063 for Africa’s socio-economic transformation and the 2030 Global Agenda for sustainable development, aspire for a more inclusive growth where no one is left behind in the process of socio-economic advancement. In particular, goal 10 of the continental development agenda aspires for the development of world-class infrastructure criss-crossing Africa as a key catalyst for intra-Africa trade, investment and mobility.

“At the home front, our NDP5 clearly articulates transport and logistics as being essential for trade, industrialisation, socio-economic development and regional integration. This, therefore, remains a key developmental priority,” said Ithindi.