The parliamentary standing committee on transport, infrastructure and roads visited the Erongo region on Monday to assess the role that roads play in connecting rural areas, promoting socio-economic growth and establishing better linkages to the Walvis Bay port.
The visit was also meant to evaluate the funds allocated to municipalities for their road development and maintenance projects.
Erongo governor Neville Andre highlighted the importance of the region as an economic hub and the vital role roads play in the movement of goods and in boosting tourism in the region.
“Tourism is very important and big. So, our roads make the necessary access for visitors or tourists to move in and out of the region,” he added.
Notable existing and planned road projects in the region include the Swakopmund-Walvis double-carriage road under construction behind the coastal dune belt, named the ‘Hifikepunye Pohamba Highway’, which is 77% complete.
“We were told that by next year it will be completed,” said Andre, adding that it is designed to alleviate traffic, particularly for heavy trucks to and from the mines and the port.
The tarring of the Henties Bay-Uis road is 30% complete. Andre said this road is not only vital for tourism, but also for regular commuting between Uis and Swakopmund.
The upgrade of the Usakos-Karibib road is at the tender stage. The governor said this road is important for ensuring safety and the efficient movement of transport between Usakos and Swakopmund.
The tarring of the Otjimbingwe-Karibib road is in its detailed design phase, currently at 98%.
“This would really help the communities of Otjimbingwe to reach Karibib as we have clinics and schools there,” Andre said.
The Usakos-Arandis road and the Karibib-Omaruru road are both under development and will enhance safety and ease flow of transport once completed.
Andre also unveiled future plans, such as the upgrade of the gravelled Solitaire-Walvis Bay road – heavy with tourism traffic – and the potential expansion of the B2 road between Swakopmund and Walvis Bay.
“The latter is quite congested, especially during the festive season,” he said, adding that there are plans to expand it to ease the traffic burden between the two towns.
Despite the progress on various fronts, Andre highlighted issues facing municipalities in the region, particularly inadequate funding, making it difficult to maintain and upgrade roads within towns.
He gave the example of Walvis Bay, whose roads have been deteriorating and are now being upgraded. He said while conditions within Swakopmund are comparatively better due to less heavy truck movement, challenges persist in other towns.
Erongo Regional Council chairperson Benitha Imbamba said the insufficient funds allocated to municipalities by the Roads Authority are a major stumbling block for local authorities.
“The funds are too little to help the municipalities within the local areas,” Imbamba said.
She highlighted the importance of the Omaruru-Uis road. With Uis growing and its hospital services developing, she emphasised the need for a reliable route for emergency services.
Imbamba also drew attention to the potential benefits of other road projects in Erongo, such as the Omatjete-Uis-Omaruru route and the direct road from Arandis to Henties Bay.
“Taking the direct route from Arandis to Henties Bay is shorter at 86 kilometres, compared to 153km when passing through Swakopmund,” she said. “If this route is looked at seriously, it will bring positive changes within our constituency, encouraging people working in the mines to live closer to work, thereby boosting the local economy.”
Standing committee chairperson, Abraham Alfues Kaushiweni highlighted the significance of infrastructure as a means to social and economic development. He expressed concern about the accessibility of essential services in rural areas.
“The infrastructure – whether it’s enabling through socio-economic development, or offers access to clinics, government offices, or constituency offices where people are getting services – is crucial,” Kaushiweni said. “We are also concerned about the safety of the main roads to these areas, as they are heavily used by trucks.”
According to Kaushiweni, the committee is keen to bolster the connection between the Walvis Bay port and other parts of Africa.
“Our harbour is very safe and reliable, which is why other African countries use our port,” he said. “To ensure smooth operations, it is vital that our roads are in good condition.”