Botswana-Namibia: Trans-Kalahari Railway


The new Trans-Kalahari Railway gathers momentum as governments in Southern Africa seek to improve regional infrastructure and trade

An ambitious multi-billion dollar railway project is to connect landlocked Botswana and its rich Karoo Basin coal fields, to Walvis Bay on the Namibian coast. Robert Kalomo, a central person for the project on the Namibian side, commented that offices had been set up in Windhoek to be staffed by officials from both countries, to work towards a host of cross-border and legal matters.

The work itself is expected to be conducted by private companies; Kalomo explained that “we have not yet selected the companies that will implement the project”.  The cost, originally estimated at US$ 15 billion, is also likely to rise, and private investors would have to raise the amount without any government guarantees, added Kalomo in daily newspaper the Namibian. As of yet, no major financial institution has shown interest in the project but the World Bank and the African Development Bank (AfDB) have been identified as possible suitors.

Corporate Communications Officer at TransNamib Holdings Limited, Ailly Hangula-Paulino, said that “a developer-arranged investment model has to be set up that will guide among others the financing, construction, and operation of the railway line…a joint venture will be set up by both governments as well as a Public Private Partnership (PPP) that will drive the process”, reported the Namibian.

The two countries signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) earlier in March, which covers aspects of the rail network that will run along the Trans-Kalahari Corridor (TKC). Hangula-Paulino said in Namibia, the railway line would follow the TKC past Gobabis through to Omitara where it turns west to Okahandja, and onwards to Walvis Bay. In Botswana, the line shall start at the Mmamabula coal fields connecting to the existing railway to Rasesa where it turns west passing north of Molepolole and east of Letlhakeng, joining the Molepolole-Kang road and through to the Mamuno border post. Alternative routes also exist to South Africa‘s Richards Bay and Mozambique‘s Beira port.


 World Coal website

Demand for Botswanan coal, largely from China and India, is hoped to boost and contribute to economic growth in the landlocked nation; once completed it is estimated that 90m tonnes will pass along the railway each year. Demand for coal is expected to peak around 2020 and Botswana is aiming to export 10% of the world’s total coal production, competing against Colombia, Australia, Russia and South Africa, reported the Namibian.

The TKC, along which the railway is to follow, was jointly built by the Namibian and Botswana governments in the 1990s with an initial investment of approximately Namibian Dollar (N$) 850m. The corridor consists of a tarred road linking the Port of Walvis Bay with Botswana and Gauteng in South Africa; new developments to the corridor infrastructure are intended to handle increased shipments from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo), Zambia and Zimbabwe, reported Business Day.

A harbour, known as the Southern Africa Development Community Gateway Port, will be built 5km north of Walvis Bay and the second and third phases of the port, initially slated to start in 2020, involve construction of a dry-bulk terminal and a five-berth coal terminal, primarily to cater for shipments from Botswana’s coalfields.

Namibia’s President Hifikepunye Pohamba commented, in a report on,  that “this will significantly contribute to and strengthen Namibia’s position in terms of trade…[and] in the same vein other landlocked countries will benefit from the railway as it will provide them with a choice of corridors to choose from”.

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin

Namibia-South Africa
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol.52, Issue.5, Pp.20855B

Botswana – Budget 2015/16
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol.52, Issue.1, Pp.20691A–20692C

Coal: Botswana
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol.49, Issue.9, Pp.19711B

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