Expansion of rail network needs local sleepers
As part of Namibia’s drive for development, the rail network is being developed with the expectation that rails will carry goods from Namport in Walvis Bay across the borders to major SADC centers.
Dorros Investments is one of the companies that will benefit from this initiative after it recently partnered with TransNamib and an Indian company, GPT Infraprojects Limited to establish a factory in Tsumeb to manufacture concrete railway sleepers.
Owned by Shafa Kaulinge, David Ipinge and George Kamati, Dorros Investments received a DBN loan for constructing the factory, purchasing machinery and for working capital.
According to Kaulinge, “The different individuals involved in Dorros are all entrepreneurs in their own right, and came together for this opportunity.” The partners had a common interest to penetrate the local railway sector and decided to join forces, out of which Dorros Investments was born.
“We had to be real with ourselves, about why we wanted to start a business, and to ask ourselves whether our passion can withstand a reality that may not always be all roses, both financially and emotionally”, said Kaulinge.
The factory manufactures sleepers needed to upgrade and extend sections of the Namibian rail network. The sleepers are produced according to specifications by TransNamib, which is also the main client.
Although it is expected that 80% of the produce will be used locally, the factory is looking to create and build markets in the rest of the southern African region.
The factory, which has been in operation since July 2011, is projected to produce 500 sleepers per day, translating to 150,000 annually, with an expected annual growth of 5%.
The factory currently employs 74 people, of which 64 are men and 10 are women, and hopes to increase this number over the years, when the factory is expected to diversify and produce other products as well. “In five years time we hope to be producing more concrete products besides concrete sleepers, such as window lintels, culverts and paving bricks.”
GPT, which holds the expertise in sleeper manufacturing, aims to train Namibians in the use of equipment, as understudies, and to incorporate them in the production process in time. This is in order to prepare Namibians to be able to fully take over the manufacturing process once the contract comes to an end.
Kaulinge said that the factory has had some challenges owing to the delay of spare parts that are ordered from South Africa. “These are minor issues that we are sorting out and we are confident that we will overcome these challenges.”
Kaulinge advises prospective entrepreneurs to start businesses for the right reason, understand the level of commitment required and to examine their traits, which they will need to align to the sort of business that they decide to go into. “It is not easy, forget about nine to five and be prepared to work many hours a day. As many entrepreneurs testify, starting your own business is like giving birth, and the baby will need attention 24 hours a day.”