Gaborone – The much-awaited construction of the Kazungula Bridge suffered a blow as one of the sponsors of the project, the Japanese government, pulled out of the project following an alleged tender dispute.
Representatives from Botswana, Zambia and the African Development Bank (AfDB) met in Kasane on July 26 to assess developments regarding the Kazungula Bridge project.
The project is co-sponsored by the two countries, with financial aid from Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and AfDB.
Present at the meeting were Botswana’s Minister of Transport and Communications, Nonofo Molefhi; President of the AfDB, Dr Donald Kaberuka, and Zambia’s Minister of Commerce, Trade and Industry, Robert Sichinga.
However, reports indicate that JICA, which was supposed to have invested over US$110 million into the whole project has since pulled out over a tender dispute leaving financial gaps in the funding of the project.
The purpose of the meeting was to brief the AfDB representative on progress made on project so far and to appreciate preparations made at the project site.
While he did not more share details, Minister Molefhi said that there had been delays to the project due to disagreements with some of the stakeholders.
Mmegi newspaper quotes Botswana’s Transport Hub Co-ordinator, Goitsemang Morekisi, as saying that the delay in the construction of the Kazungula Bridge Project was mainly due to JICA disagreeing to the technical evaluation of the three bids which were submitted for the project, requesting for a re-evaluation.
It is understood that before a tender could be awarded, a dispute arose early this year over the technical evaluation of bids from three shortlisted firms.
The firms included a joint venture between Japan’s Shimizu and South African Stefanutti, South Korea’s Daewoo and China Major Bridge Corporation.
In April 2014, ministers of transport of the countries met the Japanese delegation in Kasane to discuss the issues surrounding the tender evaluation. Following the meeting, the two governments agreed to award the contract without the support of JICA, according to Morekisi.
Morekisi is also quoted as saying that the two governments have since decided to award the tender for the construction of the bridge to Daewoo, while other components of the project, which include the building of two one-stop border posts, are still to be awarded.
“An award of the contract for package 1, which refers to the bridge only, was made to Daewoo E&C at the sum of US$162 million on the July 26, 2014,” said Morekisi.
During the meeting in Kasane, Kaberuka is quoted as saying that he was happy that the two governments had undertaken the project, as it would strengthen regional integration.
“Traffic here goes beyond the Sothern African Development Community (SADC) region and as business has grown, so has traffic,” he explained.
He noted that pontoons (ferries) are limited, as they can only transport a certain number of trucks, which causes traffic delays, resulting in trucks queuing for up to two weeks.
Kaberuka reaffirmed the bank’s support to the Zambian government, adding that in a very short while, procurement will be done and civil works will begin.
Zambia and Botswana officials and Daewoo representatives were to meet in Livingstone, Zambia, on August 11, to thrash out details on the scope of work procurement rules and contract terms.
If negotiations with Daewoo are successful, the issue will be referred back to political leaders with the contract most likely to be signed by September or October this year.
Regional infrastructure projects, AfDB notes, promote regional integration and fuel regional trade and growth. As such, AfDB, whose relationship with Botswana dates back to 1972, has played a crucial role in this project.
According to AfDB, the key road and rail bridge crossing over the Zambezi River is a key trade route linking the port of Durban in South Africa to the inland countries of Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi, the DRC, and Mozambique and up to Dar-es-Salaam in Tanzania. Kazungula Bridge, a multinational project on the North South Corridor (NSC) in the SADC region, is part of the corridor infrastructure improvement programme intended to boost regional integration. The NSC serves the economies of these eight countries.
The project scope includes the building of a bridge linking Botswana and Zambia over the Zambezi River to replace the existing ferry and includes one-stop border post facilities at Kazungula.
Many economic spinoffs, such as reduced border transit time, improved procedures on trade facilitation, improved border management operations, and consequently, increased traffic throughput and reduced time based transport and trade cost, are expected once the bridge is complete.
This project, it is anticipated, will directly benefit populations and businesses engaged in mining, agricultural and service sectors, which contribute 60-80 percent of the region’s GDP, according to the project appraisal report of October 2011. The benefits, it notes, will be through increased opportunities for intra-and extra-regional trade activities, integration of the economies served by the corridor and the creation of jobs.
The estimated total project cost is approximately US$259.3 million funded through a co-financing arrangement with the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA), African Development Bank and EU-Africa Infrastructure Trust Fund grant.
The project implementation is expected to be five years. The economies of SADC, of which Botswana and Zambia are major players, contribute nearly 40 percent of the GDP of Sub-Saharan Africa equivalent to US$340 billion (2007 figures).