Rasesa — Minister of Transport and Communications has emphasised the need for robust rail infrastructure to support evacuation of coal to international markets, particularly Asia, where there is evident demand.
Speaking at the launch of the Minergy Coal/Botswana Railways Masama Coal Mine first export load to South Africa by rail recently, Mr Thulagano Segokgo said Botswana had vast coal reserves in excess of 200 billion tonnes.
Therefore, he said Botswana as a landlocked country, needed supporting rail infrastructure to deliver coal to the ports.
"Given Botswana's strategic geographic location at the centre of Southern Africa, adequate physical and financial infrastructure is critical for the country's growth and competitiveness," he said.
"What makes me happy is the fact that this milestone is the beginning of a new partnership between Minergy Coal and Botswana Railways, which falls under my ministry.
I must emphasise that this partnership must be nurtured into a sustainable and long lasting one," he said.
He added that it was without doubt that infrastructure and by extension railway infrastructure acted as key enabler of economic development, a catalyst for business and a facilitator of employment creation.
Mr Segokgo said rail transport in particular, as a result of energy efficiency, reduced greenhouse gas emissions and lowered cost per ton per kilometre, as such it was expected to play an increasingly important role in the conveyance of freight over long distances.
He further said in the developed world, rail transport was a mature industry that was experiencing remarkable comeback after a period of decline.
"Nevertheless, in many countries railways are still struggling to transform from subsidy dependent legacy companies to more efficient commercial undertakings, particularly within the African continent," he said.
Similarly, he said rail transport had faced the related constraints and challenges across the world, but poor economic, technological and institutional conditions had further aggravated the situation in Africa.
"The result is fatigued and outdated infrastructure, sometimes rendering infrastructure obsolete," said Minister Segokgo.
He also indicated that transport was a means to an end, hence it existed to serve other sectors, adding, "Botswana's key economic drivers include tourism, agriculture production and natural resource extraction, and in line with these economic drivers and associated industry activities, coal and salt mining and production are some of the largest rail users in the country."
Mr Segokgo further said it was therefore evident that rail transport was critical and absolutely imperative to supporting economic development and unless it was fully developed, Botswana may not realise its full potential in exploiting its abundant natural resources and wealth.
For his part, Minister of Infrastructure and Housing Development, Mr Mmusi Kgafela said the partnership between Minergy Coal and Botswana Railways was a source of great pleasure because it demonstrated unity for the benefit of the nation.
Mr Kgafela said government was committed to reducing the country's import bill in an effort to be an export-led economy.
"It is time to change the tide and pursue an export-led economy for the benefit of our people and generations to come," he said.
<i>Source : BOPA</i>