Editor's Comment

Kazungula Bridge: Firm step towards regional integration

FOR a long time now, many African economic pundits have advocated the need for integration among African countries, more especially at regional level.
The lack of integration has been singled out as one of the major hindrances to the continent’s economic growth and development.
It is also argued by many development and economic experts that if Africa is to have a stronger voice on the global fora, there is need to strengthen its economic position, and integration is the vehicle through which this can be achieved.
The Africa Competitiveness Report of 2013 states that regional integration is a key vehicle for helping Africa raise competitiveness, diversifying its economic base and creating enough jobs for its young, fast-urbanising population.
However, infrastructure deficit has continued to be one of the major impediments to regional integration and that of the continent as a whole.
The decision that was taken by Zambia and Botswana with the financial support of Japan International Co-operation Agency and African Development Bank to jointly embark on the construction of the US$259.3 million Kazungula Bridge is no doubt a critical step towards enhancing regional integration and subsequently development of the African continent.
Construction of the Kazungula Bridge, which connects Zambia and Botswana over the Zambezi River, started in 2014 and is expected to be completed in December 2018.
President Lungu and his Botswana counterpart, Ian Khama, yesterday took time to visit this important project, which is poised to enhance trade not only between the two countries but in the region and beyond.
Mr Lungu said Zambia is looking forward to the quick completion of the Kazungula rail-road bridge because it will promote regional integration, increase trade and economic growth within Africa and beyond.
When completed next year, the rail bridge, which will also have two ‘one-stop border posts’ on either side of the bridge in Zambia and Botswana, will certainly improve the global competitiveness of the entire Southern African Development Community (SADC) region.
For instance the bridge will enhance trade by providing connection between the regional economic areas and link regional ports handling exports and imports from and through Botswana and Zambia.
Once completed, the bridge will also help eliminate the nightmares experienced by cross-border travellers while crossing the Zambezi River by providing more efficient and reliable modes of transport.
For a long time, people relied on the pontoon as the only mode of transport to cross into and from the neighbouring country in spite of the many traumatising accidents experienced.
Two weeks ago, hundreds of trucks were marooned at Kazungula border post and backed up over a four-kilometre stretch – from the border to a point near the weigh-bridge on the Livingstone-Kazungula-Sesheke road.
It is, however, comforting that come next year, after construction of the modern border facilities has been completed, congestion will be a thing of the past. With the one-stop border facilities, the transit times at the border will reduce significantly from as many as five days to only one.
This will also ensure business efficiency, especially for transporters. Subsequently, traffic through the border post is also expected to improve thereby boosting revenue collection because more traffic will be handled within a short period of time.
It is therefore our expectation that the contractor working on the project will ensure completion at the stipulated time so that we can start realising the benefits of this multi-million dollar infrastructure.
It is also our hope that the contractor, while trying to beat the deadline, will not compromise on the quality of the structures but strike a good balance of efficiency and quality.
We are happy that both governments are committed to the timely completion of the project hence the promise to closely monitor progress.
As President Lungu pointed out, for years to come, Kazungula Bridge will certainly stand out as an icon of bonding between Zambia and Botswana in trade, economic growth and prosperity for their peoples.
The bridge will also be cherished as Zambia and Botswana’s valuable contribution to regional and African integration.

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