by Jeff Kampembwa
Lusaka -The Road Development Agency (RDA) of Zambia wants the much-awaited Kazungula Bridge, linking Zambia and Botswana, to be completed in three years and not four years, as earlier planned due to the urgency of the project.
Delays in construction of the more than US$270 million bridge, trade experts say, has greatly affected trade between Zambia and Botswana by over 40 percent and that further delay will compound the situation further.
RDA chief executive officer, Benard Chiwala, says efforts are being made to ensure that the bridge is constructed without delay and that it be completed within three years and not four as earlier projected.
“We are trying to reduce the construction period to three years from four years because we realise how urgent it is,” Chiwala said recently.
Zambia’s Vice-President Guy Scott was quoted by the Daily Mail newspaper as saying the completion of the Kazungula Bridge is expected to reverse negative trends such as reduction in transit time from about one-and-a-half days to two hours.
His Botswana counterpart, Ponatshego Kedikilwe, was also quoted as saying during the commissioning of the bridge that the project is envisaged to become a hive of commercial activities that will bring together Botswana, Zambia, Namibia and Zimbabwe to create the upper Zambezi Development Zone. The Botswana vice-president emphasized the need for the project to take off as it has been on the drawing board for over 10 years now.
“The benefits of the project are not only limited to creation of jobs during and after construction phase, but also facilitation and easy movement of products within the SADC region including agricultural and mining equipment, increased opportunities for intra- and regional trade activities,” he was quoted as saying recently.
Kedikilwe said the project was a good omen for the four countries, adding that it would coincide with agreements between Botswana and South Africa to construct bridges over the Limpopo River at Ramtoswa and one at Platjan near Bobonong.
Several stakeholders are involved in financing the project, which include border facilities. Japan International Co-operation Agency (JICA) contributed 57.5 percent, the African Development Bank (AfDB) 31.5 percent while the governments of Botswana and Zambia each contributed 9.2 percent, while the remaining 1.8 percent is a grant from the Infrastructure Trust Fund of the European Union.
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.
He further stated that current 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.
SADC member states have prioritised the construction of the Kazungula Bridge, as it will enhance development of transport and regional integration, he said.
The Post quoted Zambia’s transport minister, Yamfwa Mukanga, as saying despite the feasibility studies and design having been completed in 2001 and reviewed in 2008, it was only now that the bridge was being taken forward.
His Botswana counterpart, Nonofo Molefhi, was quoted in the same report expressing concerns that the non-existence of a bridge at Kazungula had social ramifications.
The construction of the bridge, expected to start before end of October, was estimated to take four years to build.
The multi-national border bridge will be 923m long and 18.5m wide. It will also have a 3km railway on each side of the bridge and a one stop border post.
The bridge is expected to reduce transport costs. Presently, traffic flow across the Zambezi River, with the two ferries, is restricted to approximately 30 trucks per day per ferry in each direction.
Southern times : http://www.southerntimesafrica.com/articles/10386/Calls-to-fast-track-Kazungula-Completion