Walvis Bay Corridor Group--desert pioneers: the Walvis Bay Corridor Group is an ambitious project that links several transport and logistics systems in southern and central Africa all eventually converging on the port of Walvis Bay in Namibia. Tom Nevin describes the system.
Known as the Walvis Bay Corridor Group (WBCG), the road and rail agglomeration seeks to encourage economic growth along its routes, facilitate inter regional trade and maritime transport and offer Walvis Bay as an attractive alternative for South African importers and exporters.
The six-year-old organisation is now busy trying to maximise the Walvis Bay corridor and its respective routes by bringing together frameworks for cross border transport and trade, the development of business opportunities to attract cargo from traditional routes and upgrading capacity for the transport and corridor sector.
In effect, the WBCG is a joint operation of transport stakeholders from public and private sector. Members include the trucking, forwarding and port user industries, parastatals Namport and TransNamib and the government departments of Transport, Trade and Customs.
Corridors in the group include the Walvis Bay Corridor, Trans Kalahari Corridor, Trans Caprivi corridor and Trans Cunene Corridor.
The Walvis Bay Corridor (WBC), a network of routes linking the Port of Walvis Bay with landlocked countries and regions of Southern Africa and vice-versa, gives SADC direct access to transatlantic trade routes. It capitalises on its location and the proximity to transatlantic markets and on time, costs and reliability savings.
The WBC further supports Namibia to achieve its national development objective to become the western gateway to the Southern African Development Community.
The Trans Kalahari Corridor (TKC) links the Port of Walvis Bay with Botswana and Gauteng, the industrial hub of Southern Africa. It comprises a 1,8001cm road link built in the late 1990s, supported by a rail link to the Namibia Botswana border.
It is claimed that a container landed at Walvis Bay, thanks to the port's efficiency and quick clearance times, can be delivered to Gauteng in quicker time than one landed at the congested port at Durban just 566km from Johannesburg. Two years after completion the TKC remained heavily underutilised despite its excellent infrastructure and obvious competitive advantages. The reasons were addressed by a regional TKC facilitation programme that recommended harmonised and simplified regulations and procedures for cross border trade, enhanced border management, customs, road transport and traffic and commercial opportunities.
The Trans Caprivi Corridor (TCC) links Walvis Bay with landlocked Zambia, DRC and Zimbabwe. It is a road link covering a distance of about 2,500km supported by a rail line.
A long-time bottleneck became history with the completion of a bridge over the Zambezi River at Katima Mulilo. The bridge is supported by road rehabilitation between the bridge and Livingston that completes the link to Zambia's national road network.
Before the road was tarred, it was known as "the route of the ghost riders" because the road was covered with a film of fine white dust that swathed drivers and made them appear as pale wraiths when they disembarked.
The Trans Cunene Corridor (TcuC) links Walvis Bay with southern Angola. This corridor leg is the least enhanced, requiring serious infrastructure development and rehabilitation as well as an improved security situation on the Angolan side. Despite this, the TcuC carries a substantial amount of regional trade for southern Angola today.
RELATED ARTICLE: KWAZULU NATAL
Billion rand corridor will link KwaZulu-Natal port cities
While the Maputo Corridor continues to under-perform for a number of reasons, the Durban Richards Bay Priority Transport Initiative promises less troublesome performance. Its latest success is a R5bn ($720m) investment package to fast track such projects in the new corridor as the mammoth Dube Tradeport and King Shaka International Airport, Tata Steel's ferrochrome smelter and the King Senzangakhona sports stadium where one of the 2010 soccer World Cup semi-finals will be played.
The funding for the corridor initiatives is a mixture of public and private money. For instance, the R2.5bn ($360m) Dube Tradeport and King Shaka Airport are being funded by the provincial and national government with private sector input, while India's Tata Steel will finance its R650m ($90m) smelter in Richards Bay.
To streamline the corridor process, the KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) administration has sub-divided the province into 14 investment corridors, six of which have priority status.
According to Mike Mabuyakhulu, provincial minister of local government, housing and traditional affairs, R160m ($22.5m) has been allocated to the priority corridors under the province's spatial economic development strategy.
The general manager of Development Planning, Frikkie Brooks, meanwhile, says the money will be used for feasibility studies, package projects and fund infrastructure projects to "crowd in private sector investments".
Brooks adds that the provincial government wants to grow funding at a rate of 1:10 with private sector input to mobilise Rl.6bn for investment.
The European Union's local economic development programme has chipped in [euro]300m.
KwaZulu-Natal premier, Sbu Ndebele, says special development emphasis is being made in erstwhile apartheid homelands to help such marginalised areas to catch up economically with the rest of the province.