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Namibian truckers frustrated by state of Zambian road

2020-02-05  Edgar Brandt

Namibian truckers frustrated by state of Zambian road

As cargo volumes continue to increase on the Walvis Bay-Ndola-Lubumbashi Development Corridor (WBNLDC), Namibian truckers continue to face an uphill battle once they enter Zambia, as the Livingston to Sesheke road leading to Lusaka and beyond to the Democratic republic of Congo remains in a dilapidated state. As a result, Namibian trucking companies either have to take a 230km detour or drive at a snail’s pace for up to eight hours to cover the 200km stretch of road.  

Figures from the Walvis Bay Corridor Group (WBCG), a Public Private Partnership (PPP) established in 2000 to promote the benefits of using the Walvis Bay corridors through the Port of Walvis Bay to and from Southern Africa, show that the amount of cargo on the WBNLDC has steadily increased from 443 000 tonnes in 2017, 672 200 tonnes in 2018 to over 778 000 tonnes in 2019. 

According to Heinrich Schmidt, chief transport officer at FP du Toit, one of the biggest logistics companies in Namibia, they have opted to avoid the risk of damage to their trucks or their cargo by taking a 230km detour to avoid the rundown road. Schmidt noted that because cargo is transported at a fixed cost, the logistics company itself has to bear the cost of the increased distance and time. Emphasising that FP du Toit carries a substantial amount of cargo to Zambia and the DRC, Schmidt said another challenge is corruption. “We come across a lot of corruption, specifically at road blocks where officials will look for any small fault on a truck to squeeze a few extra dollars out of our drivers. Because of this, we always give our drivers some extra cash for these unexpected charges,” said Schmidt. 

Another logistics company, A van der Walt Transport, however, said it still uses the road in question, even though it is in urgent need of repair. According to operator Freddie Coetzee, they have opted to use the road but to drive extremely slowly, in which case it takes them about eight hours to cover the 200km stretch to deliver their cargo, most of which is destined for the DRC. Coetzee added that most of the time, the drivers prefer to drive next to road to avoid all the potholes. 

Regarding the deteriorated condition of the road in question, the Zambian government have stated they are addressing the issue and have appointed a contractor to do periodic maintenance on this strip of road, while they are sourcing funding to recondition the road. 

The WBCG remains a host to the Walvis Bay-Ndola-Lubumbashi Development Corridor Secretariat, which has been described an important trilateral platform for the DRC, Namibia and Zambia to address common challenges regarding trade facilitation. 

“During the 2018/2019 period, the region experienced various non-tariff barriers and events that threatened trade and had a negative impact on business. The WBNLDC, supported from our office in Lusaka, engaged in a number of interventions such as the huge delays experienced at the Kasumbalesa border, various instruments introduced by the Zambian Government, as well as concerns at the Katima Mulilo border. We have consulted Governments, public entities and the private sector – and we continue to create platforms to enable industry to address various matters of concern,” said Cindy-Lu Hasheela, Manager for Marketing and Communications at the WBCG. 

In response to questions from New Era’s Inside Business, Hasheela said despite the challenging environment, the WBCG remains confident of the potential Namibia has to offer. 

“As a fairly new trade route, competing with the traditional routes of Durban, Dar Es Salaam and Beira, we are proud of the achievements and the notable increase in volumes. These are mainly existing volumes that has shifted from the traditional trade routes to Namibia. It is our implicit intention to continue with interventions to ensure efficient border crossing, supported by a network of robust service provision to allow for further growth on the corridors,” Hasheela added. 

Meanwhile, Zambia remains the dominant market for transit cargo originating from the Port of Walvis Bay, accounting for 51.8% of all inbound transit cargo via the Port of Walvis Bay in 2017, up from 47.9% in 2016. This represents a 50.9% increase in the volume of imports to Zambia. Similarly, Zambian exports comprising mostly copper and wooden products accounted for 85.7% of total outbound transit cargo by volume (metric tons), up from 72.5% in 2016.

2020-02-05  Edgar Brandt

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