Government should look at the possibility of engaging the international market if the country is to raise the N$223.6b, needed for infrastructure development for the next five years.
This comes after the Bank of Namibia Director of Research, Florette Nakusera announced at the central bank’s symposium last week themed Financing of Infrastructure for Sustainable Development in Namibia, that the country needs in excess of N$200b to drive its ambitious infrastructure development.
Namibia is aiming to improve its road, rail and port infrastructure, in a bid to make the country a transport and logistics hub that will cater for the bulk of the landlocked countries in the Southern African Development Community.
The key institutions to driving the infrastructure improvement and growth in the transport and logistics sector are NamPort, TransNamib, Roads Authority and the Walvis Bay Corridor Group, who are expected to play an overseeing role on the transport and logistics network development.
Director at the German- Namibia Centre for Logistics, Neville Mbai this week told The Villager that there is a need for a holistic approach, from all role players, in consolidating the dream of making transport and logistics a driver of both employment creation and rapid economic growth, as enshrined in the National Development Plan 4.
Liberalising the sector
According to Mbai, Government needs to closely look at the possibility of regularising the sector by giving the full mandate to run the rail network to TransNamib. Currently Government owns the railway system while TransNamib merely has an administrator’s role.
Mbai also argued that if the country is to manage its ambitious plan of improving the transport and logistics sector, Government need to start the process of rehabilitating about 50% of the obsolete railway network as soon as possible.
"Government faces a difficult challenge of mobilising finances for the rehabilitation of rail on its own so they should consider the option of going to the international market to source funds for such initiative. Government also has an option of privatising the system. This will see TransNamib being given full control of the railway network in the country and they will be responsible for the running of the network,” Mbai said, adding, “This has been done in Europe. It has also been done in South Africa and the system is working perfectly well, so why can’t it be done at a local scale?’’
Mbai who believes the dream of making Namibia a key player in the transport network in the region is not farfetched also added that, "TransNamib should have started the idea of improving their operations and transport sector like yesterday. It is also worrisome that while NamPort is making progress we are fast approaching the limit on the life span of our road network.”
Rail transport, according to Mbai, should be the preferred mode of transport for goods and services, but as it stands we need all role players to drive in one direction.
Mbai also believes that giving TransNamib control of the railway network will broaden their financing options. In this instance they will be able to negotiate for support from international financing institutions.
According to Mbai, the challenge is that while NamPort are already moving towards improving the port and upgrading of the docking facilities to meet international standards the challenge is that parastatals given the mendate to improve road and rail seem to be reluctant to catch up.
This he argues will derail NamPort’s efforts in the future and in-turn defers the dream of creating a transport and logistics hub.
Figures released by the central bank also show that the Namibia needs to mobilise N$4.7b for the expansion of the port by 2017, a further N$30b for the construction of a deep water terminal at Walvis Bay to cater for the booming SADC market, while a staggering N$100b is needed for the construction of the 1900km railway link between Namibia and Botswana which is still a pipe dream.
On the other hand, Roads Authority is said to need about N$17b for the construction of roads countrywide and TransNamib, who are planning to introduce passenger trains also need more billions together with the Namibia Airports Company that aims to improve the airport facilities.
Funding a major challenge
Chief Executive Officer of NamPort Busey Uirab, also concurs that while there is definite political will to improve the infrastructure in Namibia, funding and skills are the major challenges to achieving the dream.
"We have set our sights on improving the infrastructure and driving the sector through the transport master plan. I do believe that the political support from our leaders is very vital but our assessment is that skills are a challenge across the board. At NamPort we have already started (with the improvement of infrastructure and skills) but we cannot speak for the others,” Uirab said.
The overall objective of the Transport Master Plan is to lay the foundation for the development of safe, secure, effective transport infrastructure services which are responsive to the socio-economic needs of Namibians and others in the region.
While the master plan focuses on Namibia’s infrastructure priorities, such investments will have regional and international functions. The master plan is also being used to contribute to the development of a transport system that facilitates trade within the SADC region and the integration of Namibia into the global economy, including institutional and administrative barriers such as cross boarder formalities and standards for weights and measures.
Uirab also concurred that there is a definite need for Namibia to look beyond borders for funds that are vital in driving the ambitious dream of the country. NamPort has since engaged the African Development Bank (ADF).