Mmegi/The Reporter (Gaborone)

Botswana: Imported Cars Raise Vehicle Population

With an estimated 245,738 private vehicles registered by 2008, affordable imported vehicles have contributed to a rise in Botswana's vehicle population.

The figure represents a 12 percent increase in the number of private vehicles registered in Botswana in 2007. Government vehicles in use rose slightly to 10, 760 in 2008 from 10, 660 in 2007, according to the March edition of Stats Update, an organ of the Central Statistics Office (CSO), released on Monday. Private cars registered on the country's roads numbered 119, 618 in 2008, up from 103 980 in 2007.

Over the same period, the number of light-duty vehicles registered rose from 77, 659 to 82, 727.Air traffic volumes also rose over the corresponding periods.

Domestic air passenger arrivals numbered 165, 235 passengers in 2008, a 10-percent increase from 2007, while international air passenger arrivals rose to 159, 077 in 2008, an increase of only two percent increase.

Analysts believe these figures will decline this year before rising again from 2010 going forward. "The global recession will have a negative impact on international, and to a lesser extent, on domestic air passenger arrivals in 2009 and throughout the duration of the recession," says a local tourism operator. "Already, international airlines are seeing reduced volumes, and Botswana is not likely to be an exception. A large proportion of these arrivals are for tourism, but in a recession, this industry is often viewed as a luxury."In addition, there is uncertainty about the extent and severity of the swine flue virus. Even if this does not reach southern Africa, it will play havoc with international air travel from the countries affected."

Meanwhile, the Sir Seretse Khama International Airport is undergoing massive expansion. The P433-million project is scheduled to be handed over to the government in May next year, in time for the FIFA World Cup to be played in South Africa between June 11 and July 11, 2010.

The project consists of the construction of a new state-of-the-art terminal building and the extension of the existing runway. The new terminal is being built on a separate site between the existing one and the aircraft apron. Phase I of the project also entails extending the main car park. Phase II involves the construction of a new building on the site of the existing terminal building and more work on the new separate terminal which will include car parks, aircraft parking aprons and outer areas.

Phase One is due for completion by November 2009, paving way for the commencement of Phase Two. The expansion will also see the extension of the concrete runway by one kilometre to four kilometres, the construction of a new parallel asphalt taxiway running for four kilometres and thirty-three additional hangar plots.

The expanded airport will be important for the future of aviation sector in Botswana.

Figures in the current Stats Update show that international aircraft landings declined slightly between 2007 and 2008 from 19, 445 to 19, 228. Currently, SSKIA is able to accommodate 120 passengers per hour at peak; after May 2010, the expanded airport will be capable of handling up to 870 passengers per hour at peak. This means the airport will require less aircraft landings to bring up its targeted passenger arrivals.

Other statistics from the CSO show that the volume of goods transported by Botswana Railways declined in 2008 by 141 tonnes from 1 751 in 2007. Rail passenger numbers rose over the same period to nearly 400, 000.

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