Harare – The commissioning of the Kazungula Bridge and One-Stop Border Post on May 10, 2021 by Botswana and Zambia is testimony that strategic partnerships between SADC countries can unlock the developmental value of regional integration.
The road-and-rail bridge linking the Botswana and Zambia is expected to boost trade in Southern Africa, while easing congestion at key crossings such as Beitbridge Border Post between South Africa and Zimbabwe.
The Kazungula Bridge and OSBP will ultimately link not only Botswana and Zambia, but Namibia and Zimbabwe as well as SADC forges ahead with its Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (RISDP). It also feeds into the African Union’s Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa.
RISDP seeks to promote inclusive economic growth among SADC member states.
The plan, which is anchored on six strategic objectives, prioritises collective growth and a highly industrialised SADC region. Its six strategic priority areas are:
1. The Foundation: Peace, Security, and Good Governance;
2. Pillar I: Industrial Development and Market Integration;
3. Pillar II: Infrastructure Development in Support of Regional Integration;
4. Pillar III: Social and Human Capital Development;
5. Cross-cutting issues including Gender, Youth, Environment and Climate Change, and Disaster Risk Management; and
6. Strategic Management of RISDP 2020–2030. In each of these priority areas, the RISDP provides strategic guidance in the form of actions, interventions, targets, and timelines that, if implemented and met, will further deepen integration in SADC.
“The priority area of Strategic Management of RISDP 2020–2030 is important, as it is an acknowledgement that SADC needs to make some fundamental changes if the Community is to achieve its regional integration agenda,” reads part of the RISDP.
SADC Executive Secretary Dr Stergomena Tax says deeper regional integration as outlined in the RISDP will improve livelihoods.
“The adoption, in August 2020, of the SADC Vision 2050 and the SADC Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (2020-2030) present an opportunity for the SADC Secretariat and the SADC Parliamentary Forum Secretariat to strengthen our longstanding cooperation, particularly in the priority areas as articulated in these two strategic blueprints,” she has said.
“There are three interrelated pillars, namely Industrial Development and Market Integration; Infrastructure Development in Support of Regional Integration; and Social and Human Capital Development. These pillars are interlinked with Gender, Youth, Environment and Climate Change, and Disaster Risk Management as cross-cutting issues.”
The SADC infrastructure masterplan envisages co-operation with development partners and the private sector as part of the region’s efforts to improve its infrastructure.
The bloc itself says, “Signed at the SADC Summit in August 2012, the Regional Infrastructure Development Master Plan guides development in key infrastructure such as road, rail and ports, and also acts as a framework for planning and cooperation with development partners and the private sector.
It goes on: “The Regional Infrastructure Development Master Plan contains ambitious targets, but the SADC region is embarking on the fundamental task of creating an enabling environment by delivering infrastructure requirements by 2027 in order to facilitate the realisation of sustainable regional socio-economic development and integration within the framework of the SADC Infrastructure Vision 2027.”
This is why Kazungula Bridge and OSBP are critical to the region’s development.
Besides facilitating movement of goods and people at a reduced cost of doing business, the US$259 million bridge will link the Port of Durban in South Africa to the DRC and the United Republic of Tanzania through the North-South Corridor.
Presidents Mokgweetsi Masisi and Edgar Lungu of Botswana and Zambia respectively commissioned the bridge at the quadriphonic point across the Zambezi River where Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe meet. Witnessing the ceremony were the Chairperson of the African Union President Felix Tshisekedi of the DRC, SADC Chairperson President Filipe Nyusi of Mozambique, Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa, Namibian Vice-President Nangolo Mbumba, SADC Executive Secretary Dr Tax, and COMESA Secretary-General Ms Chileshe Kapwepwe.
“I believe that with the support of our regional body and its member states, Kazungula Bridge will serve the purpose for which it was constructed. There is no doubt that the completion of this bridge has raised the expectations of our people. It goes without saying that goods from Lesotho, Eswatini, South Africa and Namibia as well as goods from Zambia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania, Angola, Kenya and all countries in the north of us will use the bridge in the true spirit of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA),” said President Masisi.
He added that Namibia and Zimbabwe would also join the project.
Zimbabwe, which will join the last phase of the bridge, will foot a third of the US$259 million cost.