TANZANIA is set to benefit from a new route which will open up SADC trade corridor to capture and channel trade flows from Zambia and DR Congo to Dar es Salaam port.
Zambia and DR Congo begin upgrading of 182km Kasomeno-Kasenga- Chalwe-Mwenda road to dual carriageway through a public-private partnership next year to feed into the Dar es Salaam port currently undergoing major upgrading work to increase its handling capacity from its present 13.8m tonnes of cargo per annum, to 28m tonnes by 2020.
The US$ 475 million road project will offer an alternative and shorter route for cargo traffic from Lubumbashi, the mineral rich provinces in DRC's Katanga region to the Dar es Salaam port.
The construction work will be undertaken by Groupe European de Development (GED) Africa and will include a 350 metre cable-stayed bridge and two one-stop border posts, in the DRC and Zambia.
According to the GED Chief Executive Officer, Rene Hutton-Mills when completed, the new road will offer an alternative and shorter route for over 600 mineral loaded trucks that travel between Katanga and the Dar es Salaam port.
"The new route will be 32 kilometres shorter which will take approximately five days. It will be fitted with modern streamlined border and customs infrastructure and systems."
On the latter, he added that, cross border trade will be further enhanced and streamlined by the introduction of a bespoke Smart Transit System, developed in conjunction with Singaporean Global eTrade Services, a Crimson Logic subsidiary, to fast track trade between Tanzania, Zambia and the DRC.
Mr. Hutton-Mills also suggested that the new SADC trade corridor has the potential to foster greater regional integration and by linking agricultural areas to regional markets, which will unlock productive capacity in SADC.
"The toll road project is indeed very timely, coinciding as it does, with the commencement of the US$ 420 million World Bank sponsored Dar es Salaam Maritime Gateway Project (DSMGP)."
The highly anticipated port expansion project aims to boost efficiencies and capacity at Tanzania's main seaport; a project necessitated by rising demand for freight services and the port upgrades being implemented by regional rivals, such as Durban in South Africa and Mombassa, Kenya.
From the port expansion initiative,it is expected that the handling capacity at Dar es Salaam, will expand from its present 13.8m tonnes of cargo per annum, to 28m tonnes by 2020.
In terms of its implementation, the toll road is a milestone project for the SADC region, being that it is not only the first Private Finance Initiative (PFI) funded Public Private Partnership (PPP) infrastructure project in both Zambia and the DRC, but is also the first cross-border infrastructure project between the two SADC countries.
The toll road, which will ultimately serve as a feeder road to the port of Dar es Salaam, is expected to be complete and become fully operational during the second quarter of 2021.
Duna Azfalt, the leading Hungarian road contractor and Group Five, the prominent African construction, concessions and manufacturing group, will be the joint Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC) contractors, whilst the operation and management of the toll road concession will be handled by Intertoll, a fully integrated toll and motorway infrastructure operator and a wholly-owned subsidiary of Group Five.
Already, Groupe European de Development (GED) Africa and Development Bank of Southern Africa has started conducting the environmental assessment process of the 187 kilometre Mwenda- Kashiba road project.
According to GED Country Director-Zambia Marcus Ascott, a total of US $221 million will be spent on the Zambian side while the rest of the funds will be spent in Congo DR.
Ascott who recently visited Tanzania said the current used border of Kasumbalesa is old, outdated,congested and quite far, saying this new route will reduce by at least 312 kilometres the distance covered from Katanga mining to the Port of Dar es Salaam.
"With creation of this new route, it will give Dar es Salaam Port the edge above other ports ...we have to embrace this new route to explore the mineral rich provinces of Katanga, which is the world biggest producer of cobalt, used in virtually all batteries in common devices, including cellphones, laptops and even electric vehicles.
"At the moment, Katanga has around 17 commercial mining and in three years' time, Katanga will have around 40 commercial mines and Tanzania should really take advantage of its geographical location to tap into this business.
"There is a lot of competition for this business with other posts of Durban (South Africa) and Walvis Bay of Namibia and even Angola eying to take advantage but Dar es Salam remains the shorter route and best for the Chinese market," he said.
Adding; Tanzania should not be complacent...we need to improve technology and embrace competition.
He said the reason why he came to Tanzania was to familiarise with transport industry and logistics provided by Tanzanian transport companies. He also met with several government officials as well as Director General of the Tanzania Ports Authority (TPA) and Commission of Customs in Tanzania.
"We have received positive response from the Tanzanian officials and transport stakeholders. They really liked this envisaged project and are very excited about it," he said.
Ascott said, "We are asking the Tanzania government to allow us to create transit crossing at Tunduma border; because if we do this, it will be a game changer...we will increase transit traffic by at least four folds."
Ascott said at the moment Tunduma border is a headache for DRC transporters,saying DRC should not be allowed to suffer.
"This is why, we are asking the Tanzanian government to allow us to create a new transit crossing at Tunduma, which will help ease congestion because it will only take 30 minutes to one hour for transit trucks to clear.
What is happening now is that all the trucks including those heading to Zambia are lining up together at Tunduma, where it takes at least seven days to clear them.
He said there was no reason for trucks heading to DRC to get stuck for all those days at Tunduma because there is no customs requirement.
"DRC bound trucks are not required to pay any duties at Tunduma border post," he argued. It is in our interest to drive much traffic into this new route that will really benefit Tanzania because Katanga is geological marvel.
It will be the first time in Africa that the crossing is dedicated for transit.
"The Dar es Salaam Port has really improved since President John Magufuli came into power.
It is now so easy to get things done ... there is great efficiency at the port," he said.