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Window of opportunity for logistics sector

Namibia has a narrowing window of opportunity to establish itself as the preferred gateway for neighboring “land-linked” countries to use for imports and exports.

In its conclusion, the 2020 Namibia State of Logistics report states: “Rather than sinking into the slough of despond, the Namibian logistics industry has the opportunity to break the vicious circle of problems by following the lead of its counterparts from other parts of the world, reviewing what has happened and cultivating the positive elements to plan for a logistics industry that will not only help the country to recover from Covid, but grow and develop.” It adds: “The aim should be not just to repair the old industry but to plan to build on proven strategies from around the world to create a new industry, fit for the 2020s and beyond making use of concepts such as:

  • Cross supply-chain collaboration
  • On-line/digital technologies
  • Strategic planning, using scenario modelling
  • Strategic planning, using scenario modelling
  • Strategic planning, using scenario modelling
  • Risk assessment supported by disaster planning
  • Supply chain shortening (or possible reverse globalization or reshoring)

“If done successfully, such a ‘new look’ logistics industry could help create a virtuous spiral where positive feedback loops improve business further to help Namibia in her aspirations to become the SADC’s logistics hub and enhance its trade,” state the authors Brighten Simasiku and Lydia Jackie.

Namibia started positioning itself as a regional logistics hub soon after South Africa handed over control of Walvis Bay in 1994. Since then, the largely undeveloped fishing harbour has become a modern gateway capable of handling vessels as large as the 335-metre-long, 7 500-TEU Maersk Sheerness.  It also has a dedicated bulk quay (which includes the former container terminal), that is being developed in partnership with the private sector.

But, there is competition, as Namport chief executive officer Andrew Kanime has found since he took the helm in November 2020.In a media briefing, he pointed out that Walvis Bay faced competition from the likes of Luanda, Lobito, Cape Town, Durban, Maputo, Beira and Dar es Salaam. All are in the process of being upgraded (or at least talking about upgrading). What will make them competitive is the backward linkages into the Copperbelt, Zimbabwe and Botswana.

This is where Namibia has an advantage. The government has enshrined the positioning of the country in successive development plans. These plans have been turned into action through investment in the ports and roads. Rail development is being prioritized, and its rejuvenation is being stoked by an energetic and committed young team. Most of all, the plan has a driver:  The Walvis Bay Corridor Group, the best-resourced and most successful corridor organization in the region, has been appointed as the implementing authority of the “Namibian Logistics Hub Concept”. The logistics hub concept is based on the public-private sector cooperation model which is behind the success of the Walvis Bay corridors.

It is in the interests of all players in the Namibian logistics sector to support the government’s plans if they are to grow their businesses. Similarly, it is in the interests of all shippers moving freight through the Southern African Development Community to have as much competition between the ports serving the region as possible.

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