21 June 2019

Southern Africa: Zim, Moza Sign Air Service Agreement

Maputo — Zimbabwe yesterday signed a bilateral air service agreement with Mozambique, which paves the way for resumption of passenger and cargo air services between the two countries. President Mnangagwa witnessed the signing ceremony.

Transport and Infrastructural Development Minister Joel Biggie Matiza represented the Government, while his Mozambican counterpart, Mr Carlos Mesquita, signed on behalf of Zimbabwe's eastern neighbour.

Minister Matiza said the agreement had previously been discontinued owing to viability issues.

"This agreement entails the free use of airspace between the two countries; that means Air Zimbabwe will be coming here, and any other airline from Zimbabwe will be coming here, and likewise Mozambique will do the same. That is the crux of the matter," he said.

"First of all, this bilateral air service agreement had expired and we need to renew that, and secondly, viability was also an issue in terms of both airlines."

Harare and Maputo are currently exploring ways of deepening economic relations as the new political administration ratchets up its economic diplomatic offensive.

The agreement was fortuitously signed at Maputo Port Development Company (MPDC) facilities -- the port operator -- which currently handles Zimbabwe's sugar, chrome, ferrochrome, diesel and wheat imports and exports.

It is believed that MPDC has a grain terminal, car terminal, bulk terminal and sugar terminal.

Notably, the Sugar Association of Zimbabwe has a 25 percent stake in the sugar terminal, while associations from South Africa, Mozambique and Eswatini own the remainder.

Overall, Mozambique has a 49 percent stake in MPDC and the private sector holds the other stake.

MPDC chief executive Mr Osorio Sales Lucas said the country could conveniently use the Maputo terminal relative to other ports in the region because of both the distance and reasonable waiting time.

"The main advantages we present against the South African ports such as Richards Bay and Durban is that now, because of construction works, we will have on average 33 hours of waiting time . . .

"Zimbabwe is served by Maputo through the Limpopo-Chikwalakwala line. The distances are more advantageous in Maputo than either Richards Bay and Durban, but not necessarily Beira."

Notably, the waiting time at the key Mozambican port is 33 hours to 36 hours compared to three to days in South Africa.

Gweru and Bulawayo are 967km and 1 083km from Maputo, respectively.

But the port is only accessible through rail while Beira can be reached through road and rail.

Minister Matiza, however, indicated that rehabilitating the road is being considered a priority by Government.

"There is a programme we are doing in Zimbabwe in terms of investors dealing with three roads: one via Kanyemba; one via Sango (Border Post) and the third one (is) Beitbridge-Bulawayo-Victoria Falls. So there are investors coming through to rehabilitate and work on those roads on a BOT (Build Operate Transfer) basis."

President Mnangagwa intends to transform Zimbabwe into a land-linked country through developing the various trade routes that serve the country, which makes it easier for the envisaged economic growth.

Further, it is expected to enhance intra-Africa trade, which is presently pitiably low.

Zimbabwe recently completed the construction of a US$3,5 million dry port facility at Walvis Bay, Namibia.

It is believed that the Walvis Bay corridor can provide an alternative link to Europe, North America and South America.

Trade experts say local importers and exporters can save more than 10 days in transit time to markets in Europe and America through using Walvis Bay.

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