From NANCY MWAPE in Kasane, Botswana
ZAMBIA and Botswana yesterday commissioned the construction of the long awaited Kazangula Bridge which will cost US$259.3 million.
The bridge, whose construction works will start within the next few weeks, will take four years to build.
Speaking at a groundbreaking ceremony in Kasane yesterday Vice-President Guy Scott said the construction of the bridge will bring immense benefits not only to the two countries but also to other countries in the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) region and the rest of the continent.
â€œAt present, traffic flow across the Zambezi River, with the two ferries is restricted to approximately 30 trucks per day per ferry in each direction. The border facilities on both Zambia and Botswana sides of the river are inadequate,â€ he said.
Dr Scott also said the facilities at the border are outdated and unable to provide quality service required for an efficient transport system.
The bridge is being financed by Zambia and Botswana with financial assistance from the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and the African Development Bank (AfDB).
Dr Scott said the project will contribute to job creation, facilitate movement of goods within the region and increase opportunities for intra and regional trade activities.
He said the construction of the bridge will reduce transport costs, cost of doing business, improved border management and increased revenue for both countries.
He paid tribute to the financiers for making the project a reality.
And Botswana vice-president Ponatshego Kedikilwe said the project is a demonstration of the common resolve to advance issues of sustainable development that will open up avenues of sustainable development, improved trade and economic diversification.
â€œThe groundbreaking stage has not been an easy journey to reach.Â We have overcome the huddles, we therefore have to celebrate,â€ he said.
The event was witnessed by cabinet ministers, traditional leaders, diplomats and senior Government officials from both countries.
Dr Kidikilwe said todayâ€™s competitive market calls for faster and higher service delivery adding that the challenge is to ensure traffic traversing the corridors remains equally competitive.
He commended SADC leaders for their visionary, transformative leadership and commitment to grow economies, trade, job creation and wellbeing of the people.
He said SADC member states have prioritised the construction of the Kazungula bridge as it will enhance development of transport and regional integration.
The multi-national border bridge will be 923 meters long and 18.5 meters wide. It will have a 3km railway on each side of the bridge and a one stop border post.
JICA deputy resident representative based in Lusaka, Atsushi Nakagawa, said JICA is committed to strengthen further its support to Africa to help achieve human development in infrastructure and institutional development.
â€œThe construction works will be safely completed as scheduled by taking necessary measures to avoid any damage and accidents during and after construction,â€ he said.
And AfDB Malawi resident representative Andrew Mwaba said the project will strengthen the already strong cooperation between the two countries and the bank was proud to be a partner on the path of economic development.
â€œThe economies of the two countries have shown strong growth over the recent past; with Botswana having successfully steered through external financial shocks and Zambia cementing its status as a country progressing to a middle income status,â€ Dr Mwaba said.
From NANCY MWAPE in Kasane, Botswana