One-stop border post to ease pressure on busy Beit Bridge
Six Heads of State and several regional dignitaries attended the historic commissioning of the Kazungula Bridge on Monday.
The bridge that connects Botswana and Zambia and links Durban’s port to the Democratic Republic of Congo and Tanzania through the North and South corridor was built at a total cost of US259 million.
The one-stop border post is seen as a key regional integration project expected to enhance access to international markets through connectivity with major seaports.
The 923m road and rail bridge’s construction commenced in 2014 and includes a rail line that links Mosetse-Kazungula in Botswana and Kazungula-Livingstone in Zambia.
Speaking at the President of the Democratic Republic of Congo and Chairperson of the African Union (AU), Felix Tshisekedi said the bridge’s construction by Botswana and Zambia subscribes to one of AU’s fundamental initiatives of regional integration to have one African market.
“This gigantic piece of engineering is in line with the African Union’s strategic ideals of developing infrastructure in transportation that will help us realize the dream of economic integration,” said President Tshisekedi.
In his remarks President of Mozambique and Chairperson of SADC, Filipe Nyusi, said the project will not only benefit the two countries but the entire SADC region, further enhancing regional integration.
“The infrastructure is a materialization of the SADC dream of removing boundaries and barriers between member states, especially in tourism,” said President Nyusi, further adding that the project aligns with the regional approach to development espoused in the SADC development agenda.
The SADC Chair further stated that the bridge offers a faster alternative route to Beitbridge and will help alleviate the congestion at one of Africa’s busiest borders.
The improved border management due to the one-stop service is also expected to significantly reduce freight and passenger transit time.
Tshikedi called on other member states to consider this model of bilateral infrastructure agreement and added that he hopes what both Botswana and Zambia did will be replicated across the SADC region.
Botswana President, Mokgweetsi Masisi, hailed the inauguration as a momentous occasion in the history of both Zambia and Botswana, a day in which: “We celebrate the fruition of our close bilateral relations which have resulted in this magnificent infrastructural project,” he said.
“Botswana has always been of the view that the Kazungula Bridge will open avenues for improved trade, job creation, and economic diversification in our countries,” said President Masisi.
The Botswana president said the project will significantly accelerate SADC’s regional integration agenda which the member states are vigorously pursuing.
“There’s no doubt that goods from Lesotho, Eswatini, South Africa, South Africa, and Namibia, as well as goods from Zambia, DRC, Tanzania, Angola, Kenya and all countries in the north of us will use the bridge in the true spirit of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement,” Masisi said.
President Masisi further said by growing strategic partnerships through the project, they have improved the development and competitiveness of the member states to attract more private sector investment.
While initially, the Zimbabwean government under the late Robert Mugabe was against the construction of the bridge since Botswana and Zambia don’t share a land border, it has since been revealed that under President Emmerson Mnangagwa, the two countries have agreed in principle to incorporate Zimbabwe into the project.
President Masisi stated on Monday that officials from both Zambia and Botswana are working hard to complete the remaining works with Zimbabwe.
In his address, President Mnangagwa promised that in the fullness of time his nation will be part of the hallmark project.
Mnangagwa said they intend to join in the bridge’s last phase, pledging to pay a third of the total cost.