MAKE THE LINK

Zambia 2014 | TRANSPORT | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Eng. Bernard Mwape Chiwala, Director and CEO of the Road Development Agency (RDA), on infrastructure development, regional links, and establishing Zambia as a transport hub.

Eng. Bernard Mwape Chiwala
BIOGRAPHY
Eng. Bernard Mwape Chiwalais Director and CEO of the Road Development Agency (RDA).

How will the Link Zambia 8,000 project improve the efficiency of transport within Zambia?

During the design of Link Zambia 8,000, we reviewed the road links within the country in terms of connectivity between towns, provinces, and regions. We established that in some cases, we had long winding routes and that we needed to create direct road links between provinces. For example, if you are coming out of Tanzania into Chama, you have to go through Lusaka—a distance of 1,700 kilometers. With the new road link between Chinsali and Chama, you will be able to connect in less than 170 kilometers. In terms of transit time and operating costs for truckers, there will be huge savings. That is the thinking that went into the design and formation of Link Zambia; we looked at the best connectivity between towns and provinces to reduce transit time and the cost of running trucks. Another example is currently if you are going from Lusaka to Kasempa, you go through Solwezi in the Copperbelt. But now the route will go through Mumbwa, reducing the distance by 400 kilometers, which is a good four to five hours reduction in travel time. Link Zambia is intended to facilitate trade within Zambia and across borders.

What role does this infrastructure play in transforming Zambia from a landlocked country into a land-linked country?

Our role is basically to execute government programs, and this is a government program. We are the executing agents of the government and we implement the program through annual plans. We have a strategic plan that spans from 2012 to 2016; it is a five-year program in which we have outlined which roads we will do and when. Now we are improving our connectivity in Zambia. The other thing we have done recently is establish a vendor rating system. This is a scheme that is intended to rate the performance of both the contractors and the supervisors to insure that they deliver to the standards that we have established. We have set 60% as the minimum benchmark to qualify. If anyone goes below that level, they will not have an opportunity to bid for contracts.

What other infrastructure have you developed to connect Zambia to its neighboring countries?

For Namibia we have a bridge that was constructed some years ago on the Zambezi River. That was built prior to the establishment of the RDA. We are also doing a link through the DRC going to the northern part of Zambia to Luapula Province; that road is famously called the Pedicle Road. The government of Zambia is constructing that road through many other countries' territories. That link might be completed by mid-2015. It is a shorter link between the Copperbelt and Luapula Province. It will also pass over a bridge that the RDA constructed five years ago, the Mombasa Bridge. We have another project with Zimbabwe and we have constructed some bridges that we are using for trucking goods between the countries. However, they are congested, hence the need to open up new routes.

What is the potential for Zambia to become a hub for central transport in the region?

Once Link Zambia is fully implemented, Zambia is going to become the natural hub—more like a warehouse or distribution center for goods in the region. We are surrounded by eight countries, meaning we are well-placed to play that critical role. We think that the move that the government has taken to improve our road network will accelerate the attainment of that natural hub. When I was at school, I was taught that being landlocked as a country was a disadvantage for Zambia; it was a negative factor. However, we see it as a great opportunity.