One of the best formulas for economic welfare is to maximize all resources for optimum gains and cut losses especially in horrendous times as these. TransNamib is one of the 52 state-owned-enterprises (SOE’s) under the National Transport Services Holding Company Act 28 of 1998 that specializes in rail transport and cargo handling. In 2013 TransNamib’s revenue was N$527 million, with net losses of N$183 million. Namport’s turnover was N$874 million in the same year. In the same year TransNamib’s assets were recorded at N$ 1.1 billion, while Namport’s assets where N$ 4.8 billion as a benchmark (The latest figures for TransNamib were not published on their website).
My story begins from knowing trains as the safest means of travel and how we crowded them during holidays as a family to reach our destination. It filled the !Hoaeb’s with pride in avoidance of hitch hiking by the road side and sitting at the back of a “bakkie” along with goats and sheep of a “Meneer Van der Something”. The times were quite memorable and profound as the train-compartments shook us into angelic sleep, unlike its current status that gives us sleepless nights. With this I mean the clients that used trains mostly live in Katutura, Khomasdal, Goreangab, Havana, etc but there is no train station there, how can one ignore the market that supports you and chase after corporate recognition. There is also no ticket office in “The Tura”. In the movie Rocky 3, Rocky Balboa was told “The worst thing that happened to you as a fighter, is that you got TOO civilized.”
Travellers and tourists from across Europe, China and India desire to experience railway delight that portrays their home countries but with a twist of Safari and Wild combined. Rail is safer than roads and should be reliable as “sunshine after a rainy storm”. In a large country like Namibia public transport is ‘high-demand driven’ and plays a vital role in our lives. The daily routines carve almost 20%-30% of everyone’s monthly budget and ties all the members of a family. Bulk goods need transport to reach their destinations, it is surely a no-brainer and a holy grail of business. The biting issues and stumbling blocks remain poor customer service and decadent governance. Railways transform the housing issues and gentrification as people reside in close proximity of railway stations. The example of rail dependent township is similar to Sungate, Elisenheim, Omeya, Finkenstein, Rehoboth or Okahandja, that can grow if they receive reliable commuter services.
The Transport Whitepaper was released last year (2015) after consultation with key transport sector role players. It highlights the need for sector reform and also motivates strategic reliance on the mining boom and its mass cargo. Mining goods are not road friendly and their trucks clog road traffic at times. The characteristics of heavy industrial countries is the efficiency to transport bulk semi-finished components from one part of the country to another. In lightweight to heavy industries and during stages of transformation, goods are assembled in various parts of a country’s economic trade zones but the response rate must be flexible and adoptive to avoid delays. Transport is the backbone of overall trade.
As per the Namibia Statistics Agency (NSA) consumer price index, annual inflation in the transport sector increased by 3.8% and this hinders competitiveness. As per the NSA the transport sector’s contribution to GDP was worth a total N$2.9 billion in 2015 alone and accounts for 4.9% of GDP (that’s 10 billion in 5 years per say). South Africa’s transport sector is worth R 368 billion (2015) and we import approximately N$40 billion worth of goods from RSA annually and we trade about N$160 billion worth of goods in and outside the country annually. TransNamib must be cognisant about pushing revenue beyond N$527 million to capture a good fraction of trade. Experts say that transport accumulates to almost 30% of a traded product, in this case 30% of N$160 billion is roughly N$ 48 billion.
The key issues to drought can be diffused if animal feed can be effortlessly transported from one part of the economy to another, this also include heavy cow salt blocks as well.
Railways also connect trade hubs, container terminals, factories and storage warehouse. Employment creation is fast when industries are dispersed in towns and villages and this eases urban migration. TransNamib is literally Windhoek’s largest real estate behemoth spanning from Windhoek North, Windhoek West, Northern Industrial Area, Southern Industrial Area, Nampower area, etc). They can increase the value of their assets from its recorded N$ 1.1 billion with structured planning and cooperation from private sector real estate companies, commercial banks and engineering companies.
In conclusion, I would like to summarise that governance, customer support and real estate reforms can resurrect the entity from the unfavourable atmosphere of its comical past and make it a key role player in achieving Harambee Goals. The previously reports of gross negligence at the institution has tarnished its status quo as a performance driven institution. The true anecdote would be to run a customer centric corporation that values its clients. This attitude build momentum and trust toward its commercial activities (small steps always lead to big results).
The Transport sector is strategic in achieving our country’s trade facilitation ambitions and to position Namibia as a regional trade hub for SADC. God bless Namibia.
Rodney Dan-Ao !Hoaeb is a Trade and Investment Researcher Committed to seeing a radical economic shake-up in Namibia.