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New hope for cross border traders

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New hope for cross border traders
BOTSWANA RAILWAYS CEO: Leonard Makwinja

F/town-Kazungula railway line announced

A proposed rail line from Francistown to the pristine resort township of Kazungula carries hope for the informal cross border traders plying their trade between Botswana and Zambia, Voice Money has learnt.

Considered the ‘hassled adolescent’ in the regional railway family, Botswana Railways (BR)’s plans to construct a railway line from Francistown to Kazungula are currently underway and pacing according to plan.

BR chief executive officer Leonard Makwinja made that announcement a couple of weeks ago when delivering a keynote address at the 11th edition of the annual Northern Letlhafula and Cultural Day at Tatisiding village’s EBAT Lodge.

According to Makwinja, the multi-billion project that will link Botswana and the neighboring Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries such as Zambia and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), is expected to kick start in the next two years.

Distance for the entire railway network of BR is as follows; Main Line – 640 km; Francistown to Sua Pan (branch line) – 174.5 km; Palapye to Morupule Colliery (branch line) – 16 km; Private Sidings – 50 km; Service Sidings – 20 km; Station Yards – 30 km; Crossing Loops – 20 km.

An additional 650km from Francistown to Kazungula will definitely boost BR’s future fortunes, he said. “This will add value to BR’s coffers,” said an optimistic Makwinja amid a thunderous round of applause from the gathering.

For years, BR has continued to make operating losses due to among others, huge infrastructure and backlog of rolling stock overhaul maintenance expenditure not matched by an increase in revenue.

However, the business community plying its trade between Botswana and Zambia alongside other countries in the north and eastern Africa has hailed the proposed rail line, as a panacea to the transporting woes.

“We have waited for years for the BR or any other rail freight company to come up with a meaningful proposal of this competence,” said Isaac Molepo of G&S Haulage (Pty) Ltd based in Francistown.

Molepo said his company has been incurring a lot of costs when transporting bags of cement and salt to the war ravaged but lucrative enough DRC market. “There is a lot of business in the DRC. The problem has been transporting goods to that country. BR has brought us a solution,” he said.

Local and Zambian cross border traders have also welcomed the BR proposal. “I cannot personally wait for rail line. Road transport is expensive compared to rail one,” said Pamela Ngoma, a Zambian cross border trader.

Other cross border traders told this publication that the rail line carries hope for them. In separate interviews, cross border traders said the railway line will make their traveling easy and cheaper resulting in them realizing profits out of their trading.

Ngoma and several others buy clothing, electrical gadgets and various goods from the Chinese merchants in Francistown and Gaborone for reselling in Zambia and Malawi as well as Zimbabwe.