The development of the Zambezi region, particularly Katima Mulilo as a major international border and logistics hub for the SADC region is critical to the promotion of deeper regional and infrastructure integration, trade and transport logistics efficiencies. In this light, the expansion and improvement of Katima as a distribution centre supports regional, continental and global value supply chains and thus promotes intra-African trade specifically to support the much-hyped Africa Free Trade Agreement.
“The region is a strategic inland hub, which will contribute towards Namibia’s vision of becoming the preferred logistics hub for the SADC region. The expanded Port of Walvis Bay is envisaged to generate increased cargo volumes for the hinterlands of Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Malawi and Angola. Therefore, to absorb the increased throughput of cargo volumes via Katima Mulilo and Ngoma border posts in the Zambezi region, there is a need to give a facelift to the border infrastructure at Katima Mulilo border post,” said Eric Shimumbwe, a consultant for the Walvis Bay Corridor Group (WBCG) on the Walvis Bay-Ndola-Lubumbashi Development Corridor (WBNLDC) Cluster Secretariat.
Responding to New Era questions, he added that the creation of logistics terminals and transhipment hubs in both Katima Mulilo and Grootfontein for services such as cold storage, warehousing and transhipment facilities is crucial for the region.
To support the development of Katima as a logistics hub, government is conducting feasibility studies on the Trans-Zambezi Railway extension, from Grootfontein-Rundu-Katima Mulilo. This, Shimumbwe stated, is a strategic and innovative initiative that would optimise Namibia’s logistics services by connecting the Port of Walvis Bay to the two railway line networks in Zambezi region, either through Ngoma border post to Kasane in Botswana or through Katima Mulilo border post to Sesheke in Zambia.
One-stop border posts
Shimumbwe continued that the operationalisation of a one-stop border post (OSBP) at Katima, as called for by Zambezi governor Lawrence Sampofu and other officials, would significantly enhance trade efficiencies at Katima Mulilo.
“Traffic would only need to stop once for cross border formalities as opposed to the traditional two-stop border post system where trucks and cargo have to stop and be scanned twice for cross border clearance formalities. Extra-territorial jurisdiction, simplified and harmonised clearance processes, procedures and legislation frameworks would be streamlined between Namibia and Zambia. A OSBP at Katima Mulilo would also promote coordinated and integrated border management through the bilateral agreement between the two countries,” Shimumbwe noted.
Namibia has already implemented laws to support the OSBP drive by enacting the One-Stop Border Posts Control Act while Zambia also enacted similar legislation. Therefore, Shimumbwe advised that with the OSBP legislations and political will in place, other pre-requisites would be to expand the border infrastructure at Katima Mulilo and rehabilitate the deplorable Sesheke - Kazungula road, and the Katima Mulilo - Mongu - Kalabo - Kasempa road infrastructure on the western side of the Walvis Bay - Ndola - Lubumbashi Development corridor in Zambia.
Shimumbwe pointed out that Zambia already has a record number of OSBPs in the southern African region, such as at the Zimbabwean, Tanzania, Malawian and Botswana borders. Furthermore, the Kazungula OSBP and bridge project commissioned in 2021, paved the way for enhanced SADC regional integration and development.
Said Shimumbwe: “Operationalisation of a OSBP between Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo at Kasumbalesa border post is another strategic regional milestone that would enhance regional trade, but the DRC is yet to enact a OSBP legislation towards this goal”.
The World Trade Organisation (WTO) and World Customs Organisation (WCO) have both recommended a number of reforms for the smooth facilitation of trade between African countries, specifically to support free African trade. These include the ratification of various trade protocols and bilateral agreements, customs modernisation strategies, integrated and coordinated border management approaches.
Moreover, to support the expansion of Katima Mulilo, Shimumbwe noted the Walvis Bay-Ndola-Lubumbashi Development Corridor (WBNLDC) continues to grow significantly as an alternative trade route for the SADC region.
“This corridor remains the busiest in Namibia, as it continues to attract and carry the largest volumes of transit cargo between the Port of Walvis Bay and the hinterland countries such as Zambia, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Zimbabwe and Malawi. This exponential growth in cargo volumes is indicative that the WBCG has made tremendous strides in these markets, and it is imperative that the WBCG increases its marketing and business development activities in order to sustain this growth,” Shimumbwe stated.
The WBNLDC offers the fastest route between the Port of Walvis Bay and the transport and logistics hubs of Zambia, DRC and Zimbabwe. It further connects into Malawi and Tanzania, via Zambia. The corridor is perfectly positioned to service the two-way trade between the SADC region and Europe, North and South America and emerging markets in the East.
With the Zambezi region seen as a ‘Gateway to SADC’ in unlocking the economic potential of the area, Zambezi governor Lawrence Sampofu recently called for the Katima Mulilo border post to be upgraded to a OSBP to facilitate the free movement of goods and to avoid bottlenecks at the border.
In addition, international relations minister, Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah, recently commented that, in order to facilitate trade between Namibia and Zambia, the government, through SADC programmes recognised the Zambezi region as a gateway to the regional market through the Katima Mulilo and the Ngoma border posts.
Meanwhile, Michelle Kirov, Marketing Director at Trade Ocean, a multinational customs clearing, freight forwarding and ships agency, weighed in on increased development, saying transporters and all road users need better ablution, medical and catering facilities to refresh. This, she suggested, can be managed and run by the community in Katima Mulilo, thereby creating jobs, as the town is considered the half point to and from the main SADC countries.
“Upgrading and expansion of the Customs and Immigration office is a necessity as this is considered the “Face of Namibia” and first stop upon arrival into Namibia from across borders – this would also allow better administrative efficiencies and create positive moral and work ethic amongst officials. Road works along the Zambezi Strip need to be maintained quicker during the rainy season,” Kirov stated.
She also supported the implementation of an OSBP, noting, “This would definitely streamline the clearing process through the respective borders and maintain consistency and standardisation between the SADC authorities (which is an ongoing challenge at present).”