KAZUNGULA BRIDGE AUTHORITY TO DEEPEN REGIONAL INTERGRATION
By Falcon Reporter
The creation of the Kazungula Bridge Authority (KBA) by Presidents of Botswana and Zambia to enhance both countries’ competitiveness in global trade and investment Southern African Development Community justifies the then regional leaders’ unwavering desire to create and modernise infrastructure as a prerequisite to deepening regional integration.
The 32nd SADC Heads of States Summit and Government summit which had in Maputo Mozambique on 12 August 2012 ratified a SADC Revised Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (RISDP) 2015-2020-revised until 2027-was arguably to foster bilateral and regional trade.
The Short Term Action Plan (STAP) 2012 –2017; the Medium Term Action Plan running up to 2022; and the Long Term Action Plan and expected to conclude by 2027, has now come to actualisation with the formulation of a Kazungula bridge Authority by President Hakainde Hichilema and Botswana’s Mokgweetsi Eric Keabetswe Masisi.
The summit hosted by then Jose Eduardo Dos Santos, unanimously set the tone for the region to pull resources together to create modern and reliable infrastructure across the region to provide the appropriate foundation for economic development as countries transcend into a regionally integrated market to serve the more than 270 million population.
Key objectives were to improve the standard and quality of life of the regional inhabitants while supporting socially disadvantaged regions with the integration of more than 14 countries. Deepen integration and increase the market size, trade opportunities and improve resource allocation across member countries.
It was envisioned that the integration would facilitate free circulation of goods and services, mobility of workers and interconnected infrastructure. Under the SADC masterplan, the ambitious infrastructure development plan is planned to be implemented in three phases until 2027.
The US$259 million-ultra-modern-Kazungula bridge on the Zambezi River joining Zambia and Botswana, and officially began on 12 October 2014, reaffirms SADC’s quest to deepen integration through RISDP.
Developers of the project seek to improve the efficiency of transit traffic through the Kazungula border, once served by a ‘rickety’ ferry and facilitate and increase intra trade activities and foster global competitiveness of Zambia and Botswana.
Improved regional connectivity of the North South Corridor; contribute to economic regional integration within the SADC region. Other outcomes include: (i) reduced border transit time; (ii) improved procedures on trade facilitation; (iii) improved border management operations, and consequently (iv) increased traffic throughput and (v) reduced time-based transport and trade cost.
January, 2024 saw two SADC leaders-Hichilema and Masisi met in Kasane, Botswana and agreed to collaborate, mutually fostering an agreement on multiple fronts of economic cooperation including the establishment of the Kazungula Bridge Authority (KBA).
The Authority would regulate and facilitate an efficient and responsible management of the vital infrastructure which will enhance uninterrupted traffic of citizens and goods between the two neighboring nations.
The co-existence will be done through a shared commitment to strengthening economic ties across various sectors. Sectors to benefit include agriculture, livestock, health, mines, defense and security, tourism, and value chains within these sectors as focal points for deepening collaboration.
Under the new arrangement, the Border Authority will be hosted by Botswana while the Chief Executive Officer will be a Zambian national. According to President Masisi, the authority is expected to discuss ways of expanding access roads, install enhanced ICT technology to facilitate service delivery.
Ministers in respective sectors have been assigned to complete all outstanding issues to operationalise all formalities needed to legalise the entity. President Hichilema envisions that the regional asset, which should be valued, will facilitate speedy and effective movement of goods to allow the two nationals expand their economies.
The two leaders envision that the formulation of the Kazungula Bridge Treaty will accelerate bilateral and intra-regional trade among SADC member states without delay. The two leaders hope the ministers and technocrats from both countries will develop specific deliverables within the next two months.
President Hichilema and his counterpart, Masisi tasked the Kazungula Bridge Authority to ensure the facility met all the requirements to accelerate speedy movement of goods and services as well as people across the Zambezi River.
The facility is expected to undertake road expansions, install enhanced ICT technology to facilitate service delivery, according to President Masisi who directed for the speedy operationalization of all formalities needed to legalise the entity.
“The Authority will be tasked to make the border compete globally by making it a facility of choice for everyone, adding that the bridge’s name will not be changed but will remain as Kazungula, President Masisi said.
President Hichilema foresees an accelerated bilateral trade relationships between the two countries and extends to other regional neighbours who are expected to make use of the Bridge in the short, medium and long term.
““We are delaying traffic at the border especially at the Zambian side, we want this to stop and hence the reason for our meeting is to set clear guidelines that will improve services at the border,”
He regretted various shortcomings that hampered trade and affected human life. “Before this bridge was constructed, lives were being lost as people tried to cross over and hence we must value this bridge as a regional asset,”
The more than US$258 million-worth-bridge opened in 2014 will form a lifeblood for Africa’s trade and integration with the inception of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
It is envisioned to facilitate the efficient and seamless movement of goods and persons resulting in the promotion of industrialisation and the growth of regional value chains while promoting tourism.
Traders and transporters along Southern Africa’s North-South Corridor will now find an easy route for their products and services after years of decrepit infrastructure, border delays and traffic jams, heightening both the cost and time of trade.
The Kazungula Bridge linking Botswana and Zambia over the Zambezi River offers renewed hope to those travelling north from Beitbridge on the South Africa-Zimbabwe border. It will contribute to intra-African trade in the Southern African Development Community (SADC).
The two one-stop border post facilities, one on each side of the Zambia-Botswana borders, the 923-metre bridge will handle over 270 trucks per day, a huge improvement on the previous pontoon boat service that could carry only two trucks at a time.
Under the one-stop border post concept, commuters stop at the facility of the exit country in a move that significantly cuts the transit time spent by traders and freighters.
Botswana and Zambia collectively own the bridge, funded by toll fees and administered by the Kazungula Bridge Authority, which was created to operate and maintain the infrastructure on behalf of the two nations.
The project cost $259m, with finance provided by the two governments, the African Development Bank, the Japanese International Cooperation Agency and the European Union-Africa Infrastructure Trust Fund gives full ownership by various players that will need to see profitability.
@ The Falcon