Boost For Local And Regional Tourism

21 May 2021

Brigitte Weidlich

Namibia’s Zambezi Region with its sub-tropical vegetation and rich wildlife in unspoilt wilderness offers tourists an unforgettable experience. Two new developments will even enhance this – a brand new bridge over the Zambezi River near the Kasane border post, where four countries have a joint border and a multi-million funding project for the region’s wildlife.

In addition, the Namibian government re-opened the Kasane border post opposite Kazungula in Botswana to the public again this month, following a long shutdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Other good news is that Namibia will be host to the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) conference in mid-June, which is dedicated to strengthening the African brand as a tourism destination.

The new Kazungula bridge. Photo: Botswana government

New 923m long bridge boosts tourism and trade

Namibia’s Vice-President Nangolo Mbumba attended the inauguration of the new 923 metre long Kazungula Bridge on 10 May, which connects Botswana with Zambia at the confluence of the Chobe and Zambezi River. Before the bridge was built, only a ferry and a pontoon transported travellers and truckers across the Zambezi River.

The borders of Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, and Zambia meet at this point. Previously, tourists wanting to visit the famous Victoria Falls, which are less than 100km away and travelling from Namibia’s Zambezi Region via Kasane and Kazungula (in Botswana), could only cross into Zambia at Livingstone across the iconic Zambezi bridge. Now, they can choose to enter Zambia already via the new bridge at Kazungula. This alternative route on a tar road offers views onto the northern banks of the Zambezi and eventually the Vic Falls, closer to Livingstone.

The most western bridge from Namibia to Zambia of course is the one just outside Katima Mulilo to Sesheke, which was completed in 2004. It has a length of 900 metres.

The new bridge at Kazungula in Botswana is a joint project of that country together with Zambia. It is operated as a toll bridge and has two car lanes in each direction, a single railway track for trains and pedestrian walkways on both sides. At each end, there is a one-stop-border post. The total cost of the project was $259.3 million (about N$3,62 billion).

The African Development Bank provided a loan covering about a third of the cost and both governments received financial support from Japan and the EU-Africa Infrastructure Trust Fund. The bridge was built by South Korean Daewoo Engineering & Construction company.

"The Kazungula Bridge is a model and benchmark for the southern African region and the continent," said President of Botswana, Mokgweetsi Masisi at the inauguration ceremony.

Map of the location of the Kazungula bridge. Photo: Wikimedia

Due to the fact that the new bridge is within the Kavango-Zambezi transfrontier conservation area (KAZA TFCA) it is expected that it will boost tourism as the ferry and pontoon system is no longer necessary. KAZA is the largest transfrontier conservation area in the world with 371,394 km2 under conservation, stretching from northeastern Namibia to Angola, Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe. About fifty percent of the total population of African elephants can be found in this area.

Wildlife management for KAZA is strengthened

The KAZA TCFA is also an important migratory route for elephants and other wild life species. However, the area is also home to rural communities who rely on agriculture, fishing, and hunting to sustain their livelihoods. Nowadays, they are not always able to meet their basic needs. Unsustainable shooting of wild animals for meat puts pressure on their numbers and protected areas from increasing human populations, urbanisation and changing lifestyles.

A new sustainable wildlife management programme was launched in Namibia this month to support the governments of Namibia and Botswana to address threats from unsustainable levels of game hunting and fragmentation of habitat, preventing animals from obtaining their necessary resources for survival. The programme also addresses poaching of animals because of human-wildlife conflicts.

One of the aims is to combat the poaching and killing of animals due to antagonism between human populations and wildlife. The project also aims to increase the resilience of the communities faced with erratic rainfall and frequent droughts due to climate change.

The amount of 3.5 million Euros (about 60 million N$), was secured for the sustainable wildlife management programme in north-eastern Namibia and northwestern Botswana until 2024.

Elephants in the Zambezi Region. Photo: Gondwana-Collection

In Namibia, the project will be implemented by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and Agence Française de Développement (AFD) of France, with the support of the World Wildlife Fund’s (WWF) local office.

"The focus of the project is to benefit both the wildlife and ecosystems in the KAZA TCFA and the resilience of local communities that rely on them, at least in part, for food and income," said Farayi Zimudzi, FAO representative in Namibia.

The project sites include 12 community conservancies in the Khaudom-Ngamiland and Kwando wildlife areas, as well as the Kyaramacan Association in the Bwabwata National Park. Rural communities in northwestern Botswana will also benefit.

Together, these sites will foster ecological connectivity throughout the KAZA landscape. The focus includes developing innovative mechanisms to reduce unsustainable hunting practices; promote the sustainable use and management of wild meat, provide technical assistance and strengthen capacities to deal with human wildlife conflicts. Cross-border collaboration and strengthening of the governance of protected areas will also play an important role.

This programme is already active with a similar approach in Zambia and Zimbabwe.

The Sustainable Wildlife Management (SWM) programme is an initiative of the Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS) and is funded by the European Union (EU). Additional co-funding comes from the French Facility for Global Environment (FFEM). The SWM adopts new approaches to conserve wild animals and protect ecosystems, while at the same time improving the livelihoods of indigenous peoples and rural communities who depend on these resources.

Sunset magic on the Zambezi River. Photo: Gondwana-Collection  

UNWTO conference in Windhoek 14-16 June

Namibia will host a conference in mid-June focusing in branding Africa as a tourism destination after the Covid-19 pandemic. The United Nations World Tourism Organisation’s (UNWTO) regional director for Africa, Elcia Grandcourt visited Namibia in early May with regard to the conference preparations carried out by the Namibia Tourism Board (NTB).

According to the Minister of Environment, Tourism and Forestry, Pohamba Shifeta, up to 150 people will participate physically at the UNWTO conference, mainly from national tourism management organisations and officials from ministries responsible for tourism from African countries. The UNWTO Secretary General will attend as well as several African tourism ministers.

The conference will also offer virtual participation. In addition, small enterprises will get an opportunity to enhance their digital marketing skills.

“The focus will be on national and regional branding to enhance Africa’s image as a tourist destination and improve the digital branding and skills of micro and small and medium tourism enterprises, particularly here in Namibia”, said Minister Shifeta.

“Positioning Africa as a tourism destination of choice based on its rich cultures, spectacular scenery and wildlife as well as other attractions will be the main focus”, he added.

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