New Southern African border crossing to boost tourism

Botswana President Festus Mogae hosted his counterparts from South Africa and Namibia at the opening on Friday of a new border crossing to allow for easier movement between the three countries.

The Mata-Mata Tourist Access Facility border crossing is situated in a desert area where the borders of western Botswana, northern South Africa and eastern Namibia lead to the giant transfrontier wildlife park of Kgalagadi (formerly Kalahari).

In his speech at the function where he was a guest of honour, South Africa’s President Thabo Mbeki said the development of this kind of park will help the economic and tourism development of the region by the time South Africa hosts the 2010 Soccer World Cup.

“Let us embrace the tourism as well as the social and economic opportunities that are presented by the natural endowment of our transfrontier parks as we prepare for the 2010 Fifa Soccer World Cup and the years beyond,” he said.

“Our ministers responsible for tourism and environment in our region have assured us that the transfrontier parks and transfrontier conservation areas are well positioned to serve as Southern Africa’s premier international destinations.”

The Kgalagadi park, which was opened seven years ago, incorporates the Gemsbok National Park in Botswana and the Kalahari Gemsbok National Park in South Africa.

Mbeki said the collaborative conservation efforts of the region, which have gained international recognition, should be used for the improvement of the lives of the people.

“The global recognition of our regional, SADC [Southern African Development Community] conservation efforts would be rendered meaningless if these fail to improve the lives of our people, as well as inspire confidence in our peoples about their tomorrow.”

“The important strategic physical linkage between the Kgalagadi and the !Ai/!Ais-Richtersveld transfrontier parks [in Namibia] is indeed indicative of our efforts to promote conservation for the people, with the people,” he added.

Mbeki said the joint project “confirms that we do indeed share a common destiny, enriched by an abiding spirit of hope”.—Sapa-AFP

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