By Business Reporter
TO help speed up travel and transportation in Namibia, the African Development Bank (AfDB) board has approved a loan of N$2 billion (US$153 million) to the Namibian government, to upgrade a 210km stretch of railway in the west of the country.
The financial support will also be used to upgrade of a section of the road from Windhoek to the Hosea Kutako International Airport.
The two interventions are part of the priority projects identified in government’s Harambee Prosperity Plan (HPP), which is an action plan that was launched in April 2016, to support priority interventions identified in the national development plans.
The upgrading of the railway track between Walvis Bay and Kranzberg will speed up both freight and passenger traffic.
The current railway line, which is of Cape Gauge standard, was last upgraded in the 1960s.
Its current condition and speed restrictions are an infrastructure bottleneck, which results in increased transport costs.
The upgrading is particularly important, because it will involve a direct linkage to the Port of Walvis Bay, and therefore will speed up the passage of goods to and from the port into Namibia and beyond, into other Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries.
The AfDB is also providing support for the expansion of the container terminal at the Port of Walvis Bay.
After the improvements, freight trains will be able to travel at speeds of up to 80km/hr and passengers will enjoy speeds of up to 100km/hr. The rail upgrading work will be implemented over three years.
The airport road project, which will be implemented over a period of 42 months, is a new dual carriageway, with two lanes in each direction, and will incorporate an option for a third lane in the future. The existing road will be retained as an alternative, to service local traffic.
The Namibian government is a co-financing partner in the project. The government recognises that the combination of having direct access to the South Atlantic and a good transport network, can improve its competitiveness and desire to become an international logistics hub. It shares borders with Angola, South Africa, Botswana and Zambia, and the latter two countries are landlocked.
While presenting the project to the board, the AfDB Deputy Director-General for the Southern Africa Regional Development and Business Delivery Office, Josephine Ngure, said: “The project is strongly aligned with the government’s priorities, and complements the other three projects approved by the bank for Namibia this year. It is in line with two of the AfDB’s High 5 strategic priorities: ‘Integrate Africa’ and ‘Improve the quality of life for the people of Africa’ through the creation of construction jobs during the works and other employment after completion.”
Amadou Oumarou, the Director of AfDB’s Infrastructure, Cities and Urban Development Department, further noted the opportunities for the involvement of the private sector in the project.
“This road and rail project will have a welcome effect on Namibia’s ability to integrate with the other members of the Southern African Development Community, by improving access to both sea and air ports,” Oumarou said.
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