“the WBNLDC is no longer an alternative trade route to Zambia and the DRC but rather a preferred trade route”
By: Nghiinomenwa Erastus
Beyond South Africa, DRC and Zambia are Namibia’s biggest trading partners in Africa, offering export markets and importing diversification.
The country’s monthly trade statistics indicate that most of what is shipped from Africa through Walvis Bay port is copper, and it mostly comes from Zambia and DRC.
To access the two countries, one has to use the Walvis Bay-Ndola-Lubumbashi Development Corridor- however, there are so many barriers (technical and non-tariff barriers) along the corridor that prevent full utilisation of the corridor.
Moreover, derailing the enhancement of intra-trade between Namibia, Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Last week, the three countries held their 12th Walvis Bay-Ndola-Lubumbashi Development Corridor (WBNLDC) Tripartite Meeting.
Attended by the Ministers of Transport, key government senior officials, technical experts, and the private sector from the member states of the Republics of Namibia, Zambia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The Walvis Bay Corridor Group (WBCG) facilitated the tripartite meeting to review progress in implementing the WBNLDC tripartite agreement, which was signed in 2010.
WHAT TO FIX?
Appeals were submitted for the 3rd ministerial meeting to focus on making the Walvis Bay-Ndola- Lubumbashi Development Corridor safe, efficient, competitive and contributing to the socio-economic development of the people.
The Walvis Bay Corridor Group has also reminded the three countries that cross-border movement remains a challenge because of tedious visa processing.
They highlighted that the border hassles negatively impact the morale of those trying to do business and the truck drivers.
The Corridor Group is advocating for abolishing visas between the three countries.
The tripartite indaba discussed the urgent need to harmonise transit fees and cross border charges as recommended by the various regional economic communities as the only way to achieve smooth and mutually beneficial operations and inclusiveness.
The meeting has also called for the extension of border operating hours between the participating states to facilitate trade beyond the conventional trading hours.
The meeting has also highlighted the need for the Republic of Zambia to ratify the WBNLDC tripartite agreement.
Furthermore, there is a need to find an urgent solution to parking space for truckers and migration to the One-Stop Border Post framework, a relevant ingredient for enhanced regional integration through trade.
Regarding immigration matters, the meeting recommended that the Republic of Namibia open a diplomatic consulate in Lubumbashi to ease trade and the issuance of visas.
The meeting also considered possible sustainable funding mechanisms for establishing the permanent WBNLDC Secretariat.
The secretariat, which the WBCG currently hosts, seeks to facilitate the removal of physical and non-physical barriers to the movement of goods and people transiting through Namibia, Zambia and the DRC.
The committee’s activities are premised on the need to improve operational efficiencies and reduce costs of doing business along the corridor.
The chief executive officer of the WBCG Mbahupu Tjivikua highlighted that WBNLDC “is an important trade artery and an economic lifeline for the Port of Walvis Bay.”
The route has supporting infrastructure such as the Katima Mulilo/Sesheke border, the new Kazungula One-Stop Border Post (OSBP) and the busy Kasumbalesa OSBP, which Tjivikua referred to as the “Mother of all border crossings in Africa”.
He emphasised that the WBNLDC is no longer an alternative trade route to Zambia and the DRC but rather a preferred trade route.
Tjivikua acknowledged that the three members had eliminated a number of cross-border issues and non-tariff barriers to trade in the region, “yet, we have not yet completely removed the iceberg”.
He said it is the duty of the corridors and all responsible government officials to eliminate all the bottlenecks and impediments to trade and improve the ease of doing business and the standard of living of the general population of Africa.
Tjivikua also reminded the three members that despite peace and stability being enjoyed in the three states, “we cannot overlook the pockets of violence and crime by those elements that want to disturb our region, especially those that sabotage trade and harass the long-distance truck drivers.”
THE WAY FORWARD
The WBCG leader highlighted that the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) was officially operationalised in January 2020; thus, “we should stop undermining and underestimating the potential of what Africans can do”.
Instead of Africa waiting for developed nations to tell the continent what to do, he said that time is now for us to drive our own prosperous agenda.
“African countries should first trade with one another before we trade outside the continent. We should create opportunities for value addition of our minerals that are being exported raw,” said Tjivikua.
He said the continent’s businesses are not yet fully liberalised, and they are doing business with each other and require a second continent to connect.
Tjivikua also reported to the delegation that the Walvis Bay Port’s new container terminal was inaugurated almost three years ago, giving more opportunities for containerised cargo to move through the port.
“We have free up space and availed land in the old container terminal towards handling various commodities and minerals in bulk and breakbulk,” he said.
He invited more cargo to and from the DRC and Zambia to utilise the country’s ports.
Namibia has allocated dry ports to Zambia and the DRC in Walvis Bay, yet, their full potential still needs to be realised, according to Tjivikua.
He said the ports could only be achieved by increasing the cargo.
He said it is also imperative for the DRC to develop its dry-port similarly to Botswana, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.