Zambia, Namibia’s most important trade link

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Magreth Nunuhe

Windhoek – Zambia is Namibia’s most important trade link in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) with the lions’ share of 91.2% of total volumes of containerised exports via the Port of Walvis Bay in the western part of the country, according to Namibia State of Logistics (NSoL) 2018 report.

Imports from Namibia to Zambia also accounted for nearly 60% of the total volume during the period April 2017 to March 2018, followed by the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) with 26% and Angola 10.4 %.

According to the report, Zambia only comes second to the DRC in terms of exports of break-bulk cargo transiting via the Namibian port, with the DRC exports accounting for 52.9% of total break-bulk cargo, followed by Zambia with 30.8% exports and Angola with exports of 8.7%.

Botswana was in fourth place at 3.2% of exports.

Cargo destined for Zambia also dominated in terms of the total number of boxes exported via the Port of Walvis Bay, which accounted for 98.7% in the past two quarters.

This was followed by the DRC in second place with imports of 31.1% of transit boxes imported from Namibia.

“The trade link to Zambia seems to be stable and in terms of volumes, currently the most important one for Walvis Bay. Measures should be taken to secure and improve this level,” stated the NSoL report.

Zambia, Angola, the DRC, Botswana and Zimbabwe are the main markets for transit cargo by volume via Namibia.

There is, however, slower or negative growth in terms of imports and exports transiting through the Port of Walvis Bay to other African countries.

Transit volumes to and from South Africa, Angola, Congo (Brazzaville), Malawi, Tanzania and Mozambique are quite low, notably because they have seaports, as opposed to Zambia and Zimbabwe that are landlocked.

Trading across the Namibian border to Zambia via the Katima Mulilo border post takes 4.9 hours, while at the Botswana crossing point at Buitepos/Mamuno takes on average 1.9 hours and 1.6 hours to cross the Namibia-South African border via Noordoewer/Vioolsdrif border post.

The road is Namibia’s main mode of goods transport including transit cargo, which accounts for 80% of total tonne-kilometres.

Cross-border Transportation Namibia is a signatory to the Convention on International Transport of Goods and the Kyoto Convention for Harmonisation.

Rail transport

The Port of Walvis Bay generates 60% of rail freight and the ongoing port expansion is expected to increase demand for freight services.

There are some anticipations in terms of future growth in rail transport, such as the progress of the Botswana-Namibia rail link framework, the anticipated start of South African manganese exports through the Port of Lüderitz, growth in throughput to and from Zambia comprising copper (export) and frozen foods (import) and the much-anticipated increase in transit volumes destined to Zimbabwe.

Clive Smith, Acting CEO of Walvis Bay Corridor Group (WBCG) recently stated that if Namibia was to play an increasing role in the regional economic agenda then it needed to focus on creating an adequate rail infrastructure and proper rail connectivity to its neighbours over the next 5-10 years.

He noted that Namibia had a very short period in which to position herself as a regional powerhouse in transport and logistics and other players in the market, such as Durban, Dar es Salaam and Beira have taken note of their programmes and initiatives and likewise are rolling out various development programmes.

Namibia has set eyes on becoming a logistics hub for the SADC region by 2025. Currently, Namibia is among the 10 best-performing countries in terms of logistics. The country’s logistics have been boosted by, among others, developments at its Walvis Bay port, the capacity enhancement that has led to a significant increase in the railway percentage share for various cargos for which rail has a distinct advantage and completion of port/rail infrastructure at the south-western Port of Lüderitz.

The Namibia State of Logistics Report 2018 is the first annual state of logistics report for Namibia, which provides a comprehensive review of the current state of logistics in Namibia, with a focus on the macroeconomic environment as well as domestic and international logistics performance.

The report was commissioned by WBCG with the support of the German Cooperation for International Development GmbH. The report was prepared by Professor Kenneth Odero and staff of the Namibian-German Centre for Logistics and the Namibia University of Science and Technology.

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