The recently constructed 923-metre-long rail and road Kazungula bridge, linking Zambia and Botswana, was inaugurated on Monday in an effort to boost bilateral and regional trade. The bridge across the Zambezi River, co-financed by the two governments, is expected to boost trade and commerce between the two countries as well as increase economic activities and prospects of other Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries, including Namibia, Zimbabwe, Malawi, DRC and Mozambique.
The US$260 million (about N$3.6 billion at today's exchange rate) Kazungula Bridge, jointly commissioned by Zambian President Edgar Lungu and his Botswana counterpart Mokgweetsi Masisi, incorporates a one-stop border infrastructure to better facilitate trade between the two countries and the entire southern African region.
Also present at Monday's inauguration were Namibia Vice-President Nangolo Mbumba and Eswatini Acting Prime Minister Themba Masuku. Other dignitaries to witness the event were SADC Chairperson and Mozambique President Filipe Nyusi and Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
The event was also witnessed by African Union (AU) Chairperson and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) President Felix Tshisekedi.
At Monday's occasion, Lungu said the bridge was a monumental effort linking Zambia internally and externally to ease the movement of goods and services.
"I have held talks with my counterpart in Botswana that this project must run daily up to 22 hours as soon as possible - and you, the technocrats, must not play ping-pong with us after making these public pronouncements," Lungu said at Kazungula bridge inauguration.
Botswana's Masisi said his country regarded Zambia as a key strategic partner in development, adding the iconic project was a demonstration of the continued growing relations.
He noted the route was historic, as it was used as a safe exit during the struggle for independence.
Zambia and the DRC are in the process of putting up a similar facility on their border.
The DRC's Tshisekedi said the project was in tandem with the AU goals and priority areas for Agenda 2063, which called for a prosperous Africa, based on inclusive growth and sustainable development.
Meanwhile, SADC chair Nyusi added the project was in line with the SADC infrastructure development master plan, while Zimbabwe's Mnangagwa congratulated Botswana and Zambia for a milestone project, reiterating that his country will also join the project.
Lungu and Masisi also separately opened the one-stop border facilities on either side of their countries.