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Proposed Katima railway to stimulate mining development

2022-04-20  Edgar Brandt

Proposed Katima railway to stimulate mining development
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Katima Mulilo Town Council CEO Raphael Liswaniso is adamant the border town is a crucial aspect in the development of a regional logistics hub. Speaking to New Era yesterday, Liswaniso said most regions of the country will benefit once the development of the logistics hub gains traction. 

A recent feasibility study into an extension of Zambia’s rail network into Namibia has found the project is financially and environmentally viable and should go ahead. The study was commissioned by the Ministry of Works and Transport and was conducted by Mumbai-based consultant MR Technofin. The Namibian government and the African Development Bank funded this feasibility study, which looked at a railway line running from Zambia to Katima Mulilo and on to Grootfontein, where it would connect with the Namibian rail system. 

“Every week or two, more than 1000 trucks pass through Katima Mulilo. This activity is severely damaging our roads. Thus, the development of a railway line through Katima to neighbouring countries will significantly save Namibian roads and will contribute to cargo more effectively and efficiently reaching neighbouring countries,” said Liswaniso. He added that in this regard, the approval of the feasibility study by the government is “no accident”. He added that “the Katima Mulilo town council is ready to serve such magnitude of logistics” and that “land is still available for development”. 

One of the aims of the proposed extension of Zambia’s rail network into Namibia is to stimulate the development of mining activities along the transport corridor running from the Port of Walvis Bay to Lubumbashi in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). 

The proposed rail extension also holds significant development potential for the border town of Katima Mulilo, which has the possibility to be developed into a logistical hub for the region where raw materials can be stockpiled before being exported to the rest of the world. 

The mineral and copper mines along the transport corridor would enable Zambia, Namibia and the DRC to effortlessly export copper and other minerals to buyers in China, Europe and America.

Moreover, Canadian mining outfit Tsodilo Resources, which is engaged in mining activities in Zambia, called the proposed extension “an important development”. James Bruchs, the company’s chief executive, said in a press statement the extension would open up a transport system for its Xaudum iron ore mine in Botswana, which is 35km from the proposed route. 

“The key conclusion is that the proposed line is viable from a technical, environmental, legal, financial and economic standpoint and should move forward,” Bruchs stated. 

Meanwhile, plans have been proposed to build a trans-African railway between Tanzania and Angola. This railway corridor would connect the two countries through Zambia, thus allowing for the transit of goods from markets in America, Asia and Europe.

The project would involve building a narrow-gauge railway from Angola to the Zambian border. The line would then be extended through central Zambia. 

Currently, the Angolan economy overwhelmingly depends on exports to China. In 2018, these accounted for more than US$25 billion, more than its exports to the rest of the world combined, and consisted mainly of oil.

In addition, trade between Angola and Tanzania is virtually non-existent. In 2015, Tanzania exported less than US$5 million to Angola, and Angola less than US$500 000 worth of goods to Tanzania.

The lack of commercial trade is partly due to the difficulties in overland transport by road, especially in Zambia, during the rainy season. A rail link is expected to provide each country with access to other countries' markets, as well as improved access to global buyers.

2022-04-20  Edgar Brandt

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