CHIMWEMWE MWALE, Livingstone
THE Swahili phrase ‘Uhuru na umoja’ translating ‘freedom and unity’ is conspicuously etched on the Tanzanian coat of arms. This is undoubtedly reminiscent of the victory and euphoria after the liberation struggle of that country, like many other nations in Africa, including Zambia.
This, to some extent, resonates with the motto ‘One Zambia, One Nation’, which underscores unity following Zambia’s independence and its quest to pursue socio-economic development which cannot and could not be done in isolation after independence.
This is what partly birthed strategic partnerships among our forefathers for the benefit of the peoples in respective countries.
The establishment of the Tanzania- Zambia Railways (TAZARA) and Tanzania-Zambia Mafuta (TAZAMA), among others, between Zambia and Tanzania (now under the leadership of President John Magufuli) are some of the key milestones established to boost trade and strengthen the economies in the two countries.
Zambia being ‘land-linked’ or is it ‘landlocked’ (from another prism), has had to tap into the port of Dar es Salaam operated by the Tanzania Ports Authority (TPA) for its imports and exports.
This is what prompted the construction of a railway linking the two countries and an oil pipeline to Ndola where crude oil is refined into different fuels after being pumped from ships which dock in Dar es Salaam from the Middle East.
TPA port manager Freddy Liundu, however, says the deteriorating state of TAZARA is one of the major challenges affecting the movement of freight and delaying trade between Zambia and Tanzania.
Mr Liundu said another major challenge to trade is the delay by trucks to cross the Nakonde-Tunduma Border Post, which is currently undergoing construction works as revealed during the tour of the Dar es Salaam Port facility recently by various stakeholders under the auspices of TPA.
These challenges being experienced by TAZARA are negatively affecting the flow of goods to and from the port.
The authority is, however, optimistic that the two governments are frantically addressing the challenges that pose a threat on the economies of both countries.
This is especially so for outward-bound goods, which are delayed for export through the port. On the other hand, goods transported by trucks are delayed for export inconveniencing port operations.
“We have a good relationship with Zambia but the main challenges are delays at Nakonde Border Post due to construction works and the deteriorating condition of TAZARA.
“The delayed truck turnaround causes delays in shipment at the port, but we are happy that the two governments are working to resolve the issues,” Mr Liundu said.
Additionally, the customs computerised systems used in the two countries are not harmonised and this also poses a hitch and further delays in the clearance of goods for shipment.
Despite the seemingly temporary challenges, TPA has embarked on the expansion and modernisation of the Dar es Salaam port at a cost of US$500 million and completion is scheduled for 2020 – the project is at 60 percent completion.
Once the project is completed, the port is envisaged to increase cargo tonnage to 23 million metric tonnes per year from 13 million metric tonnes annually.
The strategic port is also envisioned to compete favourably with other major ports at regional and continental levels.
“We have had space constraints and this is what prompted the expansion and modernisation of the port,” Mr Liundu said.
Undoubtedly, the port of Dar es Salaam is a “dynamic port” and remains relevant to Zambia as it handles different types of cargo, including edible and crude oils, different petroleum products and liquified petroleum gas.
The port, which has silos with a 30,000 metric tonnes capacity, also handles different types of grain like wheat and maize. It further handles imported vehicles and general goods both for import and export.
In close vicinity and proximity at the port, is the Zambia Cargo and Logistics Limited (ZCL), which is planning to embark on an expansion programme to increase its capacity to handle cargo for anticipated increase in business.
ZCL is a multi-million dollar international logistics company operating a regional and global business. The viability of the company prompted President Edgar Lungu to visit the firm in November 2016 and pledged to support it.
It is a wholly-owned state enterprise of the Zambian government, supervised by the Industrial Development Co-operation and is domiciled at the port of Dar es Salaam.
Surely, it is another strategic institution established and mandated to handle cargo, especially from Zambia, for imports and exports via the port.
“Government pledges to support your operations as long as you pledge to be efficient and profitable. This is a business and not a charity,” reads President Lungu’s autographed message in the ZCL visitors’ book.
As espoused by President Lungu, ZCL director and chief executive officer David Chimfwembe says the company plans to invest in its operations in Tanzania and Zambia to boost trade and enhance Zambia’s economy by running profitably.
In an interview, Mr Chimfwembe says ZCL intends to invest in additional handling equipment to increase its capacity to handle existing cargo and anticipated business.
It further plans to construct additional “covered warehouse space” to handle processed minerals such as copper and precious shipments.
With a capacity to handle 750,000 tonnes of cargo annually, ZCL is also planning to increase its fleet by buying more trucks for transportation of cargo. The facility in Dar es Salaam has targeted an annual volume of 614,055 tonnes after the expansion programme, among other measures.
“Over the years, we have diversified our revenue base to include agricultural-related cargo and other general cargo. We are currently working on the costs for the whole programme,” he noted.
ZCL, whose core service includes Container Freight Station (CFS), Inland Container Depot (ICD), clearing and forwarding, and transportation of cargo, intends to relocate its head office to Zambia by the end of 2019.
The head office in Zambia will run similarly to the current Mukuba Depot in Dar es Salaam with key features of such as a covered warehouse, offloading ramp, office block and handling equipment to handle cargo at the depot.
With such a vision, Mr Chimfwembe is calling on the Zambian business community to use the services of ZCL as it offers vast advantages as the company is domiciled at the port of Dar es Salaam.
“We offer different services faster and our proximity to the port is close, leading to less traffic,” he said.
In response, Zambia Revenue Authority (ZRA) welcomes the developments at the port, particularly the focus on improving cargo handling and boosting of revenue collection.
ZRA assistant commissioner for Muchinga Region Joe Simwanza is optimistic that the on-going expansion and rehabilitation works at the port of Dar es Salaam will improve facilities and operations.
“The port of Dar es Salaam has enough capacity to handle huge volumes of cargo.
“This will help improve trade between Zambia and Tanzania, and other countries in the region,” Mr Simwanza said in an interview.
ZRA has undertaken measures to improve operations at the Nakonde- Tunduma border post to reduce the cost of doing business and the construction of the one-stop border post has been completed on the Zambian side while Tanzania is still constructing the facility on its side.
“ZRA has undertaken to improve on efficiencies at the border leading to reduced time of consignments to clear,” Mr Simwanza said.
From the long-standing strategic partnership, it is important that the two governments quickly resolve the existing challenges to improve operations and boost trade between the two countries and beyond.
CHIMWEMWE MWALE, Livingstone