By Tiri Masawi
Windhoek - Landlocked Southern African countries namely Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe are set to accrue major benefits from plans by the Namibian government to set up a US$1.7 billion (approximately N$25 billion) Free Economic Zone at the Port of Walvis Bay through improved logistics and trade connections in the near future.
This comes after the Namibian government gave its blessings to the creation of a Free Economic Zone in Walvis Bay that services Botswana, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Zambia and Zimbabwe in a move that will unlock N$3.5 billion (approximately US$237 million) in investments and create a potential 3000 jobs in the early stages.
Namibia has been on an overdrive to lure investment in the transport and logistics business at the back of a multibillion dollar expansion of Walvis Bay port which has significantly improved the level of cargo handled as well as increased docking space to competitive levels with other ports of entry in the SADC region.
The plan is expected to hatch N$25 billion (approximately N$1.7 billion) in investments and potentially create 20 000 jobs in the second phase, placing Namibia at the epicentre of transport and logistics business in the region.
The ambitious plan got a nod last week when a multinational global trade enabler, DP World, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Namibia’s Nara Namib Free Economic and Industrial Zone, setting the pace for an expansion of industrial activities in Walvis Bay.
DP World flagship development, Jabel Ali port in the United Arab Emirates, is the 11thlargest container port in the world.
Walvis Bay is also a logistics and transport hub housing three dry port facilities for Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe on land donated by the Namibian government to the three to drive regional trade as well as position the port as a preferred hub in the region.
“The development will help Namibia grow as a centre of industrial operations and logistics, creating jobs and opportunities across sectors including agriculture, fishing, automotive industries and mining. The facility at Walvis Bay will provide business with development ready land for industrialisation and logistics operations, pre-built warehouses and office accommodation.
“The first phase will be a gross developed area of 50 hectares with expansion opportunities of up to 1500 hectares, the parties have set the first half of 2020 as the target date for reaching a definitive agreement on the project,” said a statement released after the signing of the MoU between DP World and Nara Namib Free Economic and Industrial Zone.
Namibian Minister of Industrialisation and Small to Medium Scale Development, Tjekero Tweya, said the plans for a fee economic zone in Walvis Bay augurs well with the creation of a transport and logistics hub linking landlocked Southern African countries as well as improving regional integration and trade.