PATHWAYS TO THE FUTURE

Zambia 2015 | TRANSPORT | FOCUS: BENGUELA CORRIDOR

Transport infrastructure is crucial for the sustainable development of landlocked countries, and Zambia is investing much time and energy into improving its own.

Most Zambians would assert that Zambia is a land-linked country as opposed to a land-locked country. For a nation that borders eight neighbors, transport infrastructure becomes a key consideration for enabling not only the free movement of people, but also of goods. This allows companies established in Zambia to take advantage of the links and trade opportunities that exist in the SADC region.

Historically, Zambia has been well connected to the Indian Ocean through the TAZARA, or Tanzania-Zambia Railways corridor, as well as the Great North Road. Connections to the west part of the continent have been more difficult but this may not be the case for long. On February 13, 2015, Zambia and Angola signed two bilateral agreements related to water and transport.

The first agreement deals with the Benguela-Lobito corridor. The three pillars of this intermodal transport through land, sea, and air are the Benguela Railway, the Port of Lobito, and the International Airport of Catumbela. Zambia will have its infrastructure connected to that of the Benguela corridor, which begins in Angola's eastern border town of Luau and continues along the newly refurbished 1,344km railway line to the Atlantic port city of Lobito. During the signing ceremony, President Lungu stated that this line will be the “shortest, cheapest, and most reliable route to the seas”.

When the TAZARA line was finished, the reduction in transportation costs resulted in improved trade for Zambia's eight neighbors. The question now is if the Benguela corridor will complement or, on the contrary, pose competition to the TAZARA and Great North Road routes, and, most importantly, if funds are sufficient to maintain both corridors in the best of conditions, especially because TAZARA and Great North Road seem to need further investment. If both are kept in good condition, there is no doubt that the route from Lobito is the best one to reach European and American markets. Meanwhile TAZARA, as well as the Beira corridor through Mozambique that extends to Beira port, can create links between the east of Africa and Asia, giving Zambia and its neighbors a gateway to the largest markets in the world.

Mining is one of the sectors that will benefit the most from having both routes at their disposal, facilitating the transportation of minerals from Copperbelt to both sides of the continent. Agriculture is another sector that could and should take advantage of the new route. As Hon. Given S. Lubinda explained to TBY, Zambia is in the heart of the region and has enough agriculture production capacity to supply both the SADC and COMESA markets. This explains why he is convinced that continued investment in linking Zambia to its neighbors by rail will make it easier for people to trade and will attract new investors.

The second agreement regarding water covers the Shango-mbo-Rivunga canal. During his visit to Luanda, HE Lungu said that both countries are joining efforts to connect those waterways to facilitate trade and boost the movement of people and trade.