Namibia and SA need to prioritise cross-border infrastructure

07 Nov 2013 19:40pm
WINDHOEK, 07 NOV (NAMPA) - South African President Jacob Zuma says Namibia and South Africa need to prioritise cross-border infrastructure to facilitate the easy flow of goods and services in order to further enhance close economic cooperation.
Zuma, who arrived in Namibia for a two-day State visit on Wednesday, said this when he addressed Members of the Parliament (MPs) in the capital on Thursday.
He said the establishment of a Free Trade Area (FTA) in the region will greatly enhance both countries' ability to trade with one another and ensure the strengthening of the region as a whole.
He noted that South Africa (SA) is currently prioritising infrastructure development more than ever before, involving from schools and hospitals to roads, dams, bridges, rail expansions and ports.
“We continue to promote infrastructure development in the continent and also in our region. We are encouraged by infrastructure development in Namibia,” he said, referring in particular to the completion of various infrastructure development projects such as the Walvis Bay port, as well as the railway in the Caprivi Region.
According to the SA Head of State, linking these projects with the Durban port in SA could produce new, dependable export corridors in countries that dearly need the revenue and the commercial opportunities such trade routes provide.
He went on to say he was happy to hear that the Walvis Bay Corridor Group (WBCG) recently announced that construction would soon begin on a road that will shorten the travel distance through the Caprivi Region from 1 200 kilometres to 800 kilometres.
The Walvis Bay Corridors consist of an integrated system of tarred roads and rail networks - accommodating all modes of transport - from the Port of Walvis Bay via the Trans-Kalahari, Trans-Caprivi, Trans-Cunene and Trans-Oranje Corridors, providing landlocked SADC countries access to transatlantic markets.
Zuma, who commended Namibia on plans by the WBCG to spend US dollars 300 million for the expansion of the Walvis Bay port in 2014, said this would go a long way in enhancing trade between countries in the region.
“We commend Namibia on this initiative as we believe that infrastructure development is the backbone of industrialization and development,” he said.
He said to further elevate Namibia and SA's relations, the two countries have just concluded the inaugural session of the Bi-national Commission between the two nations, transforming the Heads of State Economic Bilateral Forum into a fully-fledged Bi-National Commission (BNC).
The BNC is an instrument aimed at promoting and strengthening Namibia’s and South Africa’s economic, diplomatic and cultural ties.
Bilateral co-operation between the two countries had previously been conducted through the Annual Heads of State Economic Bilateral Meeting, and the Namibia/South Africa Joint Commission on Defence and Security, which used to meet in South Africa and Namibia alternately.
Zuma said the BNC is not only to lay a firm foundation for the optimal utilisation of the signed agreements and Memoranda of Understanding, but to provide political and strategic leadership and guidance to the bilateral cooperation and partnership between the two countries.
Namibia and South Africa cooperate on a wide range of areas, including, but not limited to, energy, trade and industries, transport, environment, water, communications, education, science and technology, mining, agriculture, security and tourism.
Progress has been achieved in many of these areas, Zuma noted, saying: “We commit ourselves to further deepen our bilateral cooperation for the mutual benefit of our respective countries and peoples”.
Concerning the economic ties between the two countries, he said a number of South African companies are involved in the Namibian economy in a variety of sectors of construction, mining, housing, retail, food and beverages, hotels and leisure, banking, and medical services, amongst others.
“It is our sincere belief that these companies will continue to make a contribution to building a strong Namibian economy with the end result of job-creation, skills transfer and growth,” he noted.
Meanwhile, Zuma have his assurance of SA’s continued commitment to work with Namibia as it (Namibia) deals with issues such as poverty, underdevelopment and unemployment.
“These are the bold challenges we are battling in our own country. We therefore need to master the same resolve and courage we ably mastered in the fight against colonialism and apartheid. We dare not fail!” Zuma stated.