THE Zambezi Watefront Tourism project is one of the many well-intended projects that the government has initiated over the years, but has been without thorough consideration being put on the actual implementation modalities just as other key national initiatives such as the failed mass housing project.
As a result, we have injected nearly N$160 million of taxpayers’ money into a project that is still far from complete – defunct in fact – and whose current value is at a mere N$45 million. To be able to account for what happened to all those millions that were pumped into the project will be a nightmare, as it has emerged that the invoicing system was in shambles.
When the government initiated this project several years ago, the aim was to stimulate tourism-related economic activities in the economically dormant town of Katima Mulilo and the entire Zambezi Region and the surrounding areas. Hence the government directive was that local contractors from previously disadvantaged groups be engaged and as a result over 40 SME companies sprung up to get a piece of the Waterfront project pie.
The Zambezi Waterfront was supposed to be a vital tourism gateway to the Victoria Falls, Botswana and Zambia, and we were supposed to use it to attract tourists to also visit Namibia. The Waterfront was earmarked to provide top quality service to holidaymakers and business travellers who make use of the resort. With Katima Mulilo ideally located to offer facilities not elsewhere available in the vicinity, the project was perfectly positioned to develop into a sought-after product.
However, big fundamental mistakes were made in the implementation of the project from the beginning. This was a major, multi-million dollar tourism project but government failed to ensure that people with the right expertise were recruited to run the project. Worse still, the SME companies from Katima Mulilo that were engaged to work on the project had never worked on a similar project before and had no clue about the quality of work they were required to deliver.
Although the project was meant to be implemented in phases, it was clear from the beginning that it was poorly planned. The first phase of the beautiful chalets was completed, including some VIP chalets, but despite the fact that the Waferfront is located a distance from the centre of town, no provision was made for restaurant and other facilities at the resort. As a result, people were discouraged from booking into a facility which offered nothing but bed and showers. Provision was also not made for conference facilities at the waterfront, which has now turned into a white elephant.
However, all is not lost as the project can still be rescued. One of the measures that government can implement to try and save taxpayers money would be to involve the tourism private sector in shaping the direction of the project. The plan to place the Zambezi Waterfront under the Namibia Wildlife Resorts was also not a far-fetched one, but bearing in mind that the NWR has its own funding challenges and that its jurisdiction only extends to resorts located within parks, the move could present challenges.
Confidente. Lifting the Lid. Copyright © 2015