Focus: The Zambezi Valley

The River That Flows

The River That Flows

May. 9, 2013

The fertile lands of the Zambezi River Valley are ripe for development. With record levels of money pouring into the region, its contribution to GDP and the country's food basket is set to grow.

The task of developing the Zambezi Valley falls to the Zambezi Valley Development Agency, and its Director General, Roberto Mito Albino. “In terms of water, mobility, and agricultural potential, it is the country's agricultural flagship and has a mission to grow," Albino says of the region.

At the beginning of 2012, the Agency announced plans to invest $200 million in the region in order to promote economic and social development. Investment is focused on agriculture, fishing, mechanization, processing, agro-industries, land planning, and infrastructure across the four provinces covered by the valley.

The Agency's roadmap for development is called the Agri-Fisheries Development Policy Operation (AFDPO). As part of the agreement, the Agency's departments will receive three installments of $50 million from the World Bank, with the first installment set to be paid in 2013. The funds are currently earmarked for projects including irrigation schemes and the supply of seed and fertilizer. The government has also recently approved a mechanization strategy, which envisages the development of service centers to attract entrepreneurs.

Up to 90% of the country's domestically consumed agricultural produce comes from small farms, and the ratio of small farms to larger organizations is no different in the valley. “We work toward the development of agriculture either through farmers or large companies, but there is space for both," said Albino.

The Director General also outlined the Agency's plans for fisheries in the region. “We are focused on investing in new agricultural sectors, the production of small fisheries, and the creation of infrastructure to foster this development," he said, adding, “funds will be used for the private sector to provide services and the public sector to do business—from when the fish are caught until they are sold on the market." A portion of the funds, of which the second installments are planned to arrive in 2014 and 2015, will be spent on power lines and services, as well as private sector capital or investments.

A second bridge in the Mozambican city of Tete over the Zambezi River is also taking shape, and will improve connectivity in the valley and wider region. The bridge will be 715 meters in length and is being constructed by a consortium of three Portuguese companies, headed by Mota-Engil. It is estimated to cost €105.2 million, including 260 kilometers of roads linking the city of Tete to the Zimbabwean border.

The Cahora Bassa Dam is arguably the most significant asset Mozambique possesses on the Zambezi River. One of three major dams on the river, it floods an area of 2,700 kilometers and is a significant source of electricity for Mozambique and South Africa, boasting five 415-MW turbines. The Cahora Bassa Dam, along with the Kariba Dam further up the river, have resulted in a narrowing of the Zambezi's delta by almost half.

As plans for the development of the valley continue, the Zambezi Valley Development Agency recognizes the need to attract “serious and appropriate investors." The Agency has conducted wide zoning exercises, and, according to Albino, “there are no large projects still waiting for land." It is also playing a crucial role in making sure investments correlate with the land, says Albino; “Suppose an investor wants to establish a sugar mill; we will ask what size and capacity, and then estimate the amount of sugar cane a producer will need. From there, we can recommend the required area and investment required."