MMAMABULA-LEPHALALE ROUTE SITE VISIT
Botswana’s aim is to be an export led economy which does not only rely on diamonds, and she can achieve that through good transport infrastructure, primarily rail infrastructure which will help in unlocking the natural resources available for exploitation. Lack of a sound transport system can be a constraint in the mining value chain, leading to slow rate of commissioning mines which hampers the country to benefit from the abundance of its natural resources. Adequate rail infrastructure is instrumental to the growth and competitiveness of Botswana, given the country's strategic geographical location at the Centre of Southern Africa. By developing enabling infrastructure, the Government can achieve the goal of transforming the country into a regional hub for Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) by tapping into both neighboring and international markets. In support of the country' Reset Agenda which envisions a Botswana that is effective with proper working infrastructure and systems; with a citizenry that has globally competitive skills, and is attractive to international investors and experts, the Mmamabula-Lephalale Rail Link project will in no doubt be an investment by the government in the rail sector. The on-going expansions and setting up of mines in Botswana not only put pressure on the existing rail infrastructure, but also there is an urgent need for a shorter and economical exit route from Botswana. The need for the project is two-fold with the project itself as a key enabler to facilitate transportation of bulk commodities such as coal, fuel, iron ore, copper, soda ash, salt into inland South Africa and export markets. The expansion of existing mines and development of new ones will provide the necessary offtake as bulk commodities for export. The project is also economic and infrastructure development for both Botswana and South Africa therefore Botswana Railways will benefit hugely as the Mmamabula-Lephalale rail link will be an alternative exit out of the country. With the existing exitline into the South African market through Mafikeng marred with delays emanating from different issues, adversely affecting the company’s business operations, the rail link will be a welcome development for Botswana Railways. With both operators having signed the Development Agreement on March 03,2023 as a commitment to the development of the rail link, Botswana Railways team led by Acting Director Projects Mr. Thabo Gabanamotse and their counterparts from Transnet Freight Rail went for a site visit to appreciate the envisaged route. The visit started from the takeoff point of the project at Mookane Gravel turnoff, to the entry point of the line into South Africa over the Limpopo River. The preferred route is estimated at 99 km in length from the takeoff point in Botswana into Lephalale- South Africa with construction cost expected at BWP2Billion to be financed through Public Private Partnership Model. The Rail Link will help unlock amongst others, the huge coal reserves in excess of 200 billion Tonnes which have been largely untapped due to lack of viable coal export route. During construction of the line, it is expected that over 3000 jobs will be created thereby improving the economic fortunes of the localities and by extension the country.