The Citizen (Gauteng)

A new gateway into Africa


- Ina Opperman –

‘This will be the most advanced border post and is guaranteed to reduce crossing times by 80%.’

Will the Kazungula bridge be a bridge too far where road transport from South Africa to the rest of Africa is concerned? The bridge between Botswana and Zambia was opened on Monday after a delay of two years, but only time will tell if the route, that skips Zimbabwe, will become more popular than the Beitbridge route.

The new bridge offers an alternate gateway to Zambia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the more traditiona­l Beitbridge/Chirundu route, says Mike Fitzmauric­e, executive director of the Federation of East and Southern African Road Transport Associatio­n.

“I am sure many South African transporte­rs will use the route initially to compare with the Beitbridge/Chirundu route in terms of cost, time and efficiency,” he says. Depending on their experience they will choose which route to use in the future.

Fitzmauric­e says it is too early to say if the bridge will ease congestion at Beitbridge, although he expects it to initially as truckers try the new route.

What does it mean for Zimbabwe?

“I am not convinced that it will take away too much traffic from Beitbridge as you have to bear in mind that Zimbabwean transporte­rs operate 56% of all heavy goods vehicle transport through Chirundu. They will continue to favour the Beitbridge/Chirundu route because their drivers have families in Zimbabwe and refuel at depots in Harare on route to Chirundu,” he says.

Fitzmauric­e says in this case it will also initially benefit Botswana as transporte­rs try out the route to compare it with the Beitbridge/Chirundu route.

He thinks it is also likely that some of the Namibian transporte­rs will use the new bridge over the Katima Mulilo route due to the very bad road conditions between Shesheke and Kazangula, which current takes around four hours to drive 80km.

It will not be cheaper for trucks to use the new bridge. According

I am not convinced that it will take away too much traffic from Beitbridge.

Mike Fitzmauric­e

to Fitzmauric­e, it will be four times more expensive to use the bridge. The ferry used to charge $25 (about R350), while it will cost $100 to use the bridge. However, if it saves time, transporte­rs should be happy to pay extra as it currently takes around two days to cross the border at Kazangula.

He says it is too early to say how much time truckers will save by using the Kazungula bridge until new data on vehicle movements along the route is available.

“Based on the infrastruc­ture and one-stop border post facilities it should save time, but the proof in the pudding is in the eating.”

Lodging is only available on the Botswana side, but not on the Zambian side.

Fitzmauric­e says on paper the one-stop border post will make a difference. “Experience from the one-stop border posts in East Africa shows that it reduces cross-border times by as much as 80%. Unfortunat­ely this did not happen at Chirundu, where cross-border times have doubled since converting to an one-stop border post 2009.”

He believes it depends on a number of issues, such as:

⯈ a single window system;

⯈ staff who are properly trained in one-stop border post procedures;

⯈ on-going capacity building to ensure that new staff are properly trained; and

⯈ staff rotation from one border post to another.

Although building the Kazungula bridge might have been aimed at increasing trade in Africa, Fitzmauric­e says the other border posts that link the route to the new bridge, such as the Groblersbr­ug/Martins Drift and Kopfontein/Tlokweng border posts, are unfortunat­ely not geared for the increase in traffic volumes and have too many infrastruc­ture constraint­s.

These border posts also do not operate 24 hours per day, which are the intended operating hours of the new Kazangula bridge’s one-stop border post.

“This is going to cause similar congestion to Beitbridge, which will frustrate transporte­rs and see them return to the more traditiona­l routes such as the Beitbridge/Chirundu route.”

Fitzmauric­e says it is also important to remember that the upgrading and modernisat­ion of the Beitbridge/Zimbabwe border post is well on track and expected to open later this year.

“This will be the most modern and technicall­y advanced border post in Africa and is guaranteed to reduce border crossing times by 80%.”

 ?? Picture: AFP ?? WANDERING. Elephants crossing the road packed with the trucks waiting to cross the river over the Kazungula bridge in Kazungula, Botswana, on Monday.
Picture: AFP WANDERING. Elephants crossing the road packed with the trucks waiting to cross the river over the Kazungula bridge in Kazungula, Botswana, on Monday.

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