Nam, Zim railway mooted

By Hilary Mare

FOLLOWING the inauguration of the Zimbabwe dry port at Walvis Bay last week, Zimbabwe’s President, Emmerson Mnangagwa has said Zimbabwe and Namibia are considering constructing a railway line linking the two countries to further enhance the movement of goods to and from the port.

Speaking at the opening of the dry port facility that was built on an estimated 19 000 square metres and given to Zimbabwe by Namibia on a lease agreement of over 50 years, Mnangagwa noted that more needed to be done when the facility becomes operational.

“I have been discussing with my colleague and counterpart Mr President, how we should improve the land connection now from here to Zimbabwe. The biggest possibility is the construction of a railway line,” Mnangagwa said.

The dry port facility is expected to provide a strategic and cheaper gateway to the Atlantic Ocean for Zimbabwe’s manufacturers and international businesses.

Mnangagwa said the dry port was expected to help foster regional integration as it will not benefit Zimbabwe alone, but other countries in SADC.

Currently, Zimbabwe and other landlocked countries in SADC rely on Beira, Maputo and Durban ports, which are now congested.

Mnangagwa explained that the dry port was an alternative and shorter route for transportation of goods to and from the respective countries.

“This dry port infrastructure will go a long way towards the realisation of economic development and integration of our countries. It’s not only going to serve Zimbabwe.

“It is going to serve Zimbabwe Botswana, Malawi, Zambia and possibly DRC. This facility provides us in Zimbabwe with a direct alternative shipping route on the Atlantic side for both exports and imports from the Americas, the Far East, Europe and West Africa.

“It will further broaden the prospects of our companies to increase trade within the context of African (Continental) Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), by promoting inter-African trade,” he said.

President Hage Geingob, who was also at the inauguration, said since the integration of Walvis Bay into Namibia in 1994 it has been the Namibian government’s vision to develop a port that can serve its landlocked neighbours and facilitate trade relations in the region.

“We are confident this dry port will become a one-stop shop for seamless logistics to and from Zimbabwe through the Namibian port,” said Geingob.

The dry port is richly endowed with the vital integrated infrastructure networks that link several transport corridors and connect SADC to Comesa, the East African community and beyond. Such corridors as the Trans-Kalahari, the Trans-Kapriv, the Trans-Kunene and Trans-Orange – which link several southern, eastern and central African countries – offer Zimbabwe plenty of opportunities and options, and access to vast markets and destinations.

Expressing further gratitude, Mnangagwa said while initiatives such as the Belt and Road Initiative by China had ensured landlocked countries like Zimbabwe become land-linked, establishment of a Dry Port at Walvis Bay, further upgrades the country to be seas-linked.

“So we have been running with that adage that Zimbabwe is land-linked and not anymore landlocked. But today we have now been told that Zimbabwe is not land-linked but seas-linked. This now means that Zimbabwe’s frontiers actually share the waters of the Atlantic. I am grateful,” he said.