Windhoek — Despite about 400 trucks being impounded in Zambia earlier this year, transit volumes for goods to and from Zambia have reached a new high of more than 40,000 tonnes for September 2017.
This record level of goods in transit between the two countries comes at a time when the two governments are hard at work mending their stained relations that originated when the Zambian government impounded trucks from neighbouring countries to verify their relevant transport permits.
The trucks, many of which were transporting Mukula timber, a protected species in Zambia, were impounded by authorities in that country to confirm where the wood was harvested and if the trucking companies were in possession of relevant permits to transport the protected tree species.
The most recent statistics from the Walvis Bay Corridor Group, which is tasked to promote the Walvis Bay-Ndola-Lubumbashi Development Corridor (WBNLDC), indicate that import and export volumes for the Zambian Market via the Port of Walvis Bay grew by 15 percent over the last financial year.
According to the WBCG, these occurrences show significant confidence in the Walvis Bay-Ndola-Lubumbashi Development Corridor, especially the Zambian market.
WBCG CEO Johny Smith noted that compared to the inception of the route more than a decade ago, the Zambian market has achieved a better balance between imports and exports, which has also reduced the costs along this corridor over time.
"A variety of commodities have been established over a period of time to support the balance of imports and exports via the Port of Walvis Bay for the Zambian ,arket", Smith said.
He added that while the impounding of the trucks earlier this year had strained the relationship between Namibia and Zambia, and negatively impacted small and medium enterprises, the two countries have in fact established a cordial and long-term relationship of mutual benefit.
Smith was part of a delegation that accompanied government to Zambia earlier this year to ensure an amicable solution was found to the perceived strained relations.
A follow-up WBNLDC tripartite meeting between the DRC, Namibia and Zambia will take place in Ndola, Zambia early next month. The body aims to regulate and evaluate the progress concerning full implementation of solutions on the various corridors and to continuously find ways to improve efficiency along this corridor, thereby reducing the cost of trade in SADC.
Meanwhile, apart from the growing Zambian market, the Malawian market has enjoyed an increase of more than 50 percent against the previous year, which also forms part of the WBCNLDC.
"Continuous engagements with various stakeholders from the public and private sector on the WBNLDC remain critical to support the growth and development of this corridor," Smith noted.
The WBNLDC links the Port of Walvis Bay with Zambia, the southern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Zimbabwe. The Corridor runs via the Zambezi Region in northeastern Namibia and enters Zambia via the Katima Mulilo Bridge.
The WBNLDC was officially opened in 1999. In May 2004, the bridge over the Zambezi River at Katima Mulilo and Sesheke in Zambia was completed, which has been a strategic piece of infrastructure this corridor.
The Corridor stretches over 2,500 km and is supported by a railway line between Walvis Bay and Grootfontein, where trans-shipment facilities are available. As part of its mandate to aid in awareness creation of the Walvis Bay corridors and the Port of Walvis Bay, WBCG opened an office in Lusaka in 2005 to support growth in that market.