Dar es Salaam — New regulations in Zambia meant to empower locals could have a devastating impact on Tanzanian transporters, it has been revealed.
The Citizens Economic Empowerment (Transportation of Heavy and Bulk Commodities by Road) (Reservation) Regulations, 2021 seek to operationalise the southern African country's the Citizens Economic Empowerment Act, 2006.
Currently, the Tunduma-Nakonde border post is Tanzania's busiest crossing, being the gateway to Zambia, the Democratic Republic of Congo and, to some extent, Zimbabwe.
It is estimated that over 70 per cent of transit goods imported through Dar es Salaam Port pass through the border post.
On average, the value of cargo passing through the border to Zambia, the DRC and Zimbabwe is estimated at $1.5 billion (Sh3.4 trillion) annually.
These figures translate into lucrative business for transport firms from Tanzania and Zambia, but Tanzanian transporters are now worried that some sections of the new Zambian regulations could have far-reaching ramifications on their business volumes.
This is because the regulations state categorically that Zambian road transporters be given preference when it comes to transporting goods into and within the country.
The regulations apply to producers and manufacturers of raw materials, oil suppliers, logistics companies, clearing and forwarding agents, oil marketing companies and transporters by road of a commodity to a person's plant, industry or place of business.
They are categorical that a person who intends to export goods from Zambia shall ensure that at least 50 percent of the merchandise is transported by a Zambian transporter.
"A person who intends to import a commodity referred to in the Schedule, into the Republic (of Zambia), shall ensure that at least 50 percent of the commodity is transported by a local transporters," the regulations state in part.
As for domestic transportation, the regulations require that it be fully conducted by local transporter.
Any person found to have contravened the regulations faces a fine or a jail term of up to three years or both.
Although the regulations and the law could be seen as a Zambian affair, the fact that there are close trade relations between the two Southern African Development Community (SADC) member states gives Tanzanian transporters reason to worry.
Tanzania Truck Owners Association (Tatoa) vice chairman Elias Lukumay told The Citizen that should Zambia start to enforce the law, it would not only deny Tatoa members access to business, but would also eliminate competition.
"It means that up to 60 percent of cargo will be transported by Zambian transporters, and 30 per cent would be carried by Tazara, leaving us with only 10 percent. This is not a good sign," he said, and called for urgent intervention by the Tanzanian government.
"We have invested massively in this business. We don't support these regulations at all," Mr Lukumay said.
Apart from impeding the flow of goods and passengers across Tanzania and Zambia, Tanzanian transporters also say that the regulations would deny them access to other destinations.
They have since written to the government, through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, asking that the matter be addressed as soon as possible.
Tatoa and the Tanzania Association of Transporters (TAT) say in the letter, whose copy The Citizen has seen, that part of their mandate was to transport cargo to landlocked countries within SADC and the East African Community (EAC).
Works and Transport minister Leonard Chamuriho told The Citizen on Monday that the government was aware of the situation.
"This is a Zambian matter. However, it is a fact that if they implement them (the regulations), they will have a big effect on our side," he said.
Dr Chamuriho added that the government met with Tanzanian transporters on June 11, and the new Zambian regulations were among their biggest concerns.
As a result, another meeting has been scheduled for June 26 when it will be agreed how Tanzania should handle the matter.
"Since this is something that affects us, we need to reach an agreement with another country. After the business council meeting, we will arrange a trip to Zambia, or organise a zoom meeting that will enable us to share our views with them," Dr Chamuriho said.
He said once an agreement is reached, the media would be informed accordingly.