NKWETO MFULA, Mushindamo
OF all Zambia’s ports of entry, Mushindamo’s Kipushi border post is a unique facility, as it is mainly utilised as a transshipment zone by transporters entering the country from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Kipushi border lies about 130 kilometers east of Solwezi, the provincial capital of North-Western province. It has great potential to boost government revenue, if given the required border facility.
The declaration of Mushindamo as a district in 2015 raises hope of curbing the smuggling in of goods into Zambia via the Kipushi border.
The border post is a busy one as transporters of goods in the region use it to access different markets in the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) and Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa.
Motorbike operators also conduct their businesses between Kipushi to Solwezi ferrying people and goods on their crafts. Motorbikes are also used to ferry goods across the Zambian and DRC border areas.
Mushindamo resident, Noah Muziya 29, is a motorbike operator who makes K180 for a journey between Kipushi to Solwezi.
It’s from the same business that he supports his wife and six children.
“I can only ride to Solwezi if I have two customers on my motor bike. I make one return trip in a day,” he says.
DRC nationals have also joined the motorbike business and are operating on the Zambian side, going as far as Solwezi’s Kanshanshi mine area.
The business in this border area booms during the Tuesday and Friday markets when farmers transport their produce for sale at the border. Foodstuffs produced in Zambia are normally ferried into the DRC.
“On Tuesday and Fridays, I make a maximum of K500 per day, because I ferry farmers and their produce,” Mr Muziya says.
However, the motorbike business has its own risks due to overloading and lack of helmets by riders and their customers.
Only a few riders were found with headgear during an-on-the spot check.
The motorbike riders compete for clients with public service vehicle operators as they all load from Solwezi main bus station and the competition is stiffer during the Tuesday and Friday markets.
The journey to Kipushi border in the newly-created Mushindamo district which is supposed to take a maximum of one hour, takes about three to four hours because of the bad state of the road.
However, Government has pumped in K2.5 million to kick-start the rehabilitation of the road. The long-term plan for the Kipushi-Solwezi road is to engage a contractor to upgrade it to bituminous level.
Kibushi is a busy port going by the volume of vehicles passing through the border, but the benefits to the Zambia economy are marginal due to rampart smuggling of goods.
An average of 250 trucks were found parked on the Zambian side of the border laden with goods, while others vehicles were still loading. Traders coming with goods from the SADC and COMESA regions via DRC, normally load their trucks on the Zambian side.
Transporters who are mostly truckers from the two economic blocs, find the Kipushi border useful for their transshipment of cargo.
Transshipment is the change of vehicles at the port of entry and reloading of goods into another vessel for onward transportation to the final destination.
However, the Kipushi border is porous, hence most of the goods are smuggled in through unauthorised entry points.
The transshipment of goods is actually a conduit for smuggling of goods instead of declaring them to customs officials. Some of the truckers park their vehicles at undesignated points to evade customs officers from the Zambia Revenue Authority.
The district administration says the trend has resulted into Zambia losing millions of Kwacha in uncollected import duty.
Mushindamo district commissioner Benson Ngambo says the illegal trade was hurting his district and the Zambian economy as a whole.
“We are losing out on revenue because of the transshipment system being practised at Kipushi border, because DRC is collecting revenue on goods imported [from the Zambian side] into their country,” Mr Ng’ambo said.
Mr Ngambo said after President Lungu gave Mushindamo district status, plans to construct dry ports to compel truckers to park in designated places to curb smuggling, are underway.
Land has been reserved at Kipushi border for the construction of dry ports and other facilities need for transshipment activities.
Mr Ngambo is therefore appealing to the private sector to invest in dry ports in Mushindamo to help Government curb the illegal trade.
He said the establishment of dry ports in Mushindamo will result in creation of jobs for the local people as the facilities will create need to build lodges and restaurants to cater for hundreds of transporters that cross the border on daily basis.
The new district needs lodging facilities and eateries to cater for the needs of the travelling lot from SADC and COMESA that pass through Kipushi border.
“A large number of trucks especially from Tanzania, park their trucks on the Zambian side and reload their goods into DRC vehicles,” he states.
The upgrading of Mushindamo border post in a bid to increase revenue collection, is on government’s agenda.
Mushindamo town council wants to woo hoteliers and other entrepreneurs to provide hotel and catering services, as well as standard accommodation respectively in the new district.
Council secretary Musonda Mumpa says investors in the hospitality industry should consider investing in Mushindamo because it has potential to tap into trade opportunities from the SADC and COMESA regions.
Mr Musonda says the face of Munshindamo will soon start changing as the process of bidding for the construction of council offices is on progress.
Government has already released funds for the project.
Currently, civil servants are operating from Mushindamo Technical Girls Secondary School.
However, there is urgent need to build modern border facilities in the area to curb smuggling of goods into Zambia, otherwise the country will continue losing millions of Kwacha from the illicit trade.