Corridor of uncertainty

Tshepo Kehimile
SEEKING ALTERNATIVES: Mpofu

Time to smarten up for Trans-Kalahari route

Stretching 1, 900km, all the way from Walvis Bay, Namibia to Pretoria, South Africa after dipping into Botswana, the Trans-Kalahari Corridor (TKC) was officially opened in 1998.

The route enters Botswana at the border post of Buitepos, continuing through Jwaneng before exiting the country at Lobatse.

Speaking at last month’s South African Customs Union (SACU) meeting in Gaborone, the TKS Secretariat’s Executive Director, Leslie Mpofu stressed the corridor’s impact on trade in the region.

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Calling for improved corridor performance, Mpofu said it was vital to come up with a robust programme that supports effective trade facilitation and ultimately lowers transport costs.

“Transportation costs in Africa remain the highest in the world. This results in the transaction costs in general being very heavy on traders who then transmit such costs to consumers,” he highlighted.

Mpofu also revealed it is estimated that corridor inefficiencies in Africa cost over $75 billion every year.

“This reduces African countries’ intraregional and international competitiveness,” he said.

Calling on TKS to lead the continent’s revival, Mpofu said, “There is a need to develop smart corridors which prioritize Safety, Mobility, Automated, Real-time Traffic Management. These are a single electronic window which offer; cargo tracking; commercial vehicle tracking; container tracking; freight train tracking; and high visibility corridor efficiency monitoring.”

Outlining key performance areas, the Executive Director said, “Transport operators and traders choose their routes based on key performance of corridors, and these corridor performance indicators include the distance to related operating costs, cargo travel time, predictability of transit, reliability of important services along the corridor, safety and security as well as the ‘hospitability’ of the route.”

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Noting some of the constraints that hinder trade facilitation, Mpofu pointed to prolonged transit time at the ports, border delays at main crossings, inconsistent regulations and lengthy documentation procedures.

“There were also challenges associated with ICT connectivity as well trade imbalance – that is the fact that transporters struggle to secure a return trip load. The Covid-19 pandemic further affected smooth trade facilitation within the region. A lot of traders were caught unaware and there was not enough notice especially when the lockdowns were affected.”

Other handicaps included inadequate infrastructure and the absence of a railway line in some parts of the corridor.

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