Analysis: NKWETO MFULA
THERE are various modes of transport used in Zambia such as road, air, railway and water as is the case worldwide.
With the growing population and business activities, the demand for transport has tremendously increased.
It is for this reason that Government is striving to upgrade transport infrastructure by constructing roads, railways, dredging of water bodies and building of new airports to meet the demand for the modes of transport.
Without an efficient transport system, it is difficult and costly to move goods, resulting in loss of market competitiveness and lower economic growth with little or no job creation for the people.
Of the transport modes available, water transportation is the least sufficient despite being critical, especially in places such as Western, Northern and Luapula provinces where it is the main form of transport.
While the country has abundant navigable lakes and rivers, the development of the sector has been inhibited by lack of tactical know-how in the management of inland waterways.
The eastern sea route through Lake Tanganyika, which is a gateway for exports of various products such as cement, sugar, including maize and other farm produce to the Great Lakes Region, such as Rwanda and Burundi require a government-owned vessel.
Government should be commended for the nation-wide survey of 2011/2012 which culminated into a report and guide on how to enhance water transport by making more water bodies navigable.
The findings of the survey helped inform decision to purchase six water vessels at a cost of US$12 million.
The move is aimed at boosting the water transport in the country to the modern water transport standard.
According to Minister of Transport and Communication Brian Mushimba all modes of transport will be made accessible and affordable to the public.
Mr Mushimba, said a cargo vessel will be deployed on Lake Tanganyika to compete with the Tanzanian vessel, the SS Liemba.
The SS Liemba is a passenger and cargo ferry built in 1913 that still runs along the eastern shore of Lake Tanganyika.
The ferry, which was set to sail 103 years ago as a German warship on the East African front, is still sailing down Lake Tanganyika.
The introduction of a State-owned ferry on the water body will result in increased transportation of goods as well as give choice to exporters and importers of goods on which ferry to use.
The move will enhance competition on Tanganyika waters.
Mr Mushimba also states that one vessel will be deployed on Lake Bangweulu in Luapula Province.
This is a welcome move as it will ease the difficulty that people face while travelling in that region.
The ferry for the Zambezi River is the one that has been relocated to Bangweulu following the completion of Mongu /Kalabo road as the demand for road transport has increased as opposed to use of water transport.
The current passenger boat on Lake Bangweulu is faulty, so the provision of another water vessel will keep the movement of people and goods moving from one place to another.
So far, a 120-seater passenger boat has been delivered, while two more are expected soon.
And the delivery of other cargo vessels will follow later.
Government has already procured 27 various dredgers for the water bodies to make them navigable.
When PF Government came into power, they found five dredgers which were servicing the whole country.
The purchase of 27 is testimony enough that Government is committed to developing the water transport to benefit the people and the country as a whole.
With the increase in dredger equipment, water transport is earmarked for development and will play an important role in the economic development of the country.
Following the purchase of the six water vessels, only one has been delivered. Government should therefore expedite the delivery of vessels as that will result in economic growth for the country and job opportunities for the people.
Mr Mushimba is spot-on that the PF is the first Government to show commitment towards promotion of water transport in the country.
“When PF formed Government, we commissioned the study on canals, rivers and lakes on how best to make water bodies navigable,” he says.
It is the duty of any Government to ensure that people do not remain static in their way of living in this age and era.
With Government commitment to promote water transport, a lot is yet to be seen on how the water transport will play a role in the country’s economic development agenda.
The author is Chingola-based Zambia Daily Mail senior reporter and a Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport student.