BREAKING GOUND

Zambia 2017 | TRANSPORT | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Hon. Eng. Brian Mushimba, Minister of Transport & Communication, on diversifying the economy, the significance of rail, and initiatives to dredge Zambia's canals.

Hon. Eng. Brian Mushimba

Given the importance of aviation in facilitating plans to diversify the economy into agro-industry and tourism, what is the government doing to advance this area?

We recognize the fact that to truly open up the country and operate as regional hub in the very near future, we must invest in all four modes of transportation and make them available, accessible, and cost effective to support the growing economy. The current government has placed equal importance on all the four modes of transportation and investing in them as required to support the economic diversification agenda. Outside the capital, we are also making sure that policies and regulations to support various sectors are in place in order to create an environment for doing business. In the aviation sector specifically, we have enacted new laws that have streamlined and aligned our industry to international requirements, and we have signed bilateral air agreements and extended fifth freedom rights to ensure efficient passenger movements in and out of the country. However, expected increased flows of traffic, as Zambia becomes more of a tourist destination, demand improved infrastructure and we continue to do just that with the commissioning of the new airport terminal at HMNIA in Livingstone and new radar system at both KKIA and HMNIA. We are expanding and modernizing KKIA by adding a new airport terminal able to handle up to 4 million more passengers per year with many amenities such as airport hotels and shopping malls. The project is expected to be completed by 2020. We are also about to break ground on the new USD400 million Copperbelt International Airport in Ndola, which will have a capacity for 2 million passengers per year.

How instrumental are PPPs for the government's large-scale transport projects?

We are cognizant of the fact that we not only have limited resources, but our role is also to create environments where business can thrive. This is why we always encourage private-sector participation and open many projects up for this to happen. A dual carriageway to the Copperbelt as well as a greenfield rail project in northwest Zambia to open the Lobito Transport Corridor have been earmarked for private participation. There is also other substantial Chinese FDI channeled into the sectors that we hope will signal to many other players that such opportunities truly exist for partnership.

How can rail bolster Zambia's connectivity with neighboring states?

Rail transportation is a reliable mode of transportation and very cost effective. We believe that having good rail connectivity would truly benefit the aspirations of the country and connect Zambia to ports far and near. We have relied heavily on the Dar Es Salaam Port, which is connected via TAZARA, but we are also currently working on opening up the Nacala, Lobito, and Walvis Bay ports. Furthermore, we have plans to enhance and improve the operations of the existing rail networks in Zambia under TAZARA and Zambia Railways. Both the lines are old and have had a history of low recapitalization that we are turning around. To support trade with the Great Lakes region, we are also planning to modernize Mpulungu Harbor as well as construct a new rail line between Nseluka and Mpulungu connecting the current rail lines to the port to lower transport costs and also provide more options for transporting goods to the Great Lakes region.

What is the motivation behind government initiatives to dredge Zambia's canals?

Historically, the funding for opening up waterways has been negligible in Zambia; however, under the new government there has been an increased emphasis on water transportation as constructing roads over Zambia's many water bodies is costly. Instead, we will dredge these waterways and bring in the right vessels to transport people and cargo. We will rehabilitate many of our ports and harbors, such as Mpulungu Port on Lake Tanganyika. Here, the dredging equipment has been procured, and we have ordered some passenger vessels while we await funds for cargo vessels.