Maputo — Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi declared on Monday that the Kazungula Bridge, over the Zambezi River, linking Zambia and Botswana, will remove physical barriers in the SADC (Southern African Development Community) region, and will consolidate regional cooperation.
Nyusi, who is the current chairperson of SADC, was speaking at the inauguration of the 923 metre long road and rail bridge, which cost 230 million dollars, financed by the Zambian and Botswanan governments, the African Development Bank (ADB) and the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA).
Cited in a statement released by his office, Nyusi stressed that SADC member countries have been building national economic and technological infrastructures which have an impact on regional integration, in order to facilitate interconnections between the members, in line with the vision expressed in the regional integration master plan.
The Kazangula Bridge is a key link in SADC's north-south corridor. It will allow countries in the northern part of the region to reach South African and Namibian ports without going through Zimbabwe.
Previously the link between Zambia and Botswana was only guaranteed by two ferry boats. The bridge will clearly generate much greater levels of traffic. Gone will be the days when queues of trucks built up to use the ferries. It is expected that transit time will be reduced from 36 hours to two hours.
Nyusi said that, in addition to its economic and social value, the bridge could lead to security gains, such as mitigating smuggling and drug trafficking in the region. But care had to be taken to ensure that the bridge is not used by criminals themselves.
"We have to remain vigilant against those who, taking advantage of the ease of circulation, promote organized crime, such as illegal migration, contraband, trafficking in human beings and terrorism", he warned.
"From this bridge, we can reach any port in SADC", Nyusi added, "such as Beira. Nacala, Walvis Bay and Durban, among others. This implements the dream of connectivity of southern Africa and of Africa in general".
He believed the bridge could contribute to an increase in the region's Gross Domestic Product, and an increase in its imports and exports, as well as generating employment.
For the co-host of the ceremony, Zambian President Edgar Lungu, the one-stop border post built at the bridge will reduce red tape, and guarantee strengthening of the SADC regional market.
The other co-host, the President of Botswana, Mokgweetsi Masisi, claimed that, in the near future, the bridge would also allow a connection with Zimbabwe, by facilitating movement from the counties on the Atlantic side of SADC, to the Indian Ocean coastline.
In fact, the bridge avoids Zimbabwean territory altogether. Zimbabwe will only become part of the project once it pays a share of the costs.