The bridge and one-stop-border-post facilities between Zambia and Botswana will enhance regional trade, integration and spur global competitiveness.
Scenes of traders, travelers, fishermen and women crossing the Zambezi river on floating planks, ferries, rickshaw boats, and canoes will soon come to an end. In just 24 months, travelling between the water-rich but land-locked Zambia and Botswana will get easier, smoother and faster, when the new road and rail bridge, currently under construction across the waters of the Zambezi, is commissioned for public use.
The 923-metre-long by 18.5-metre-wide masterpiece will link the town of Kazungula in Zambia with Botswana. Its location traverses the intersection of the Zambezi and Chobe rivers. At this point, four countries - Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe – meet.
The Kazungula Bridge Project will have a single-line railway track, pavement for pedestrians and international border facilities: two One-Stop Border Posts, located on Botswanan and Zambian territory. When completed, the bridge will be connected to the Mosetse-Kazungula Railway.
The project was one of several projects showcased by officials of the Kazungula Bridge Project Office during the 2018 Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA) Week.
Seeing is believing. Consequently, the conveners of the annual infrastructure summit, the African Union Commission, NEPAD and the African Development Bank, scheduled a trip to the site of the project as part of the week-long PIDA Week, held from 26-29 November 2018.
“It is obvious that once completed, the Kazungula Bridge Project will actually bridge the regional divide,” Mamady Souare, Manager for Regional Integration Operations at the Bank told the 110 participants and reporters who made the trip from Victoria Falls to Kazungula.
“The project will transform the dynamics of transportation in surrounding communities, counties and cities, boosting road travel and the ease of doing business within the Southern African Development Community, the East African Community and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa,” Souare further remarked.
The development has been facilitated by a tripartite arrangement between Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe on the North-South Corridor within the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) region and is part of a corridor-long infrastructure improvement programme, to enhance regional trade and integration.
Following feasibility studies and funding approval for the nearly $260 million project by the board of the African Development Bank in 2011, construction began in 2014, after the governments of Zambia and Botswana announced a deal to build a bridge, replacing the existing Kazungula ferry service. The principal financiers of the project include the governments of Zambia and Botswana, the African Development Bank, the EU-Africa Infrastructure Trust Fund grant and the Japan International Cooperation Agency.
Zimbabwe was brought on board the project as a stakeholder in March 2018, after Presidents Emmerson Mnangagwa of Zimbabwe, Ian Khama of Botswana and Edgar Lungu of Zambia jointly inspected the progress of the multi-million-dollar project.
Also addressing media in Kazungula, Ibrahim Mayaki, Chief Executive Officer, NEPAD Agency said: “Progress is not only visible on the Kazungula Bridge Project, but this project is proof of the consensus and focus on infrastructure development amongst regional and continental stakeholders and credit must be given to PIDA for this…”
As of October 2018, the project had created about 1,485 new jobs including employment for 118 women.
From a policy perspective, the Kazungula Bridge Project leverages the African Development Bank’s Industrialization Strategy for Africa (2016 - 2025). It also aligns with several programs and strategies put in place by regional and continental bodies to improve infrastructure as an anchor for sustainable transformation. These include: the SADC Regional Infrastructure Development Master Plan; the Revised SADC Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan 2015 - 2020; the Tripartite Trade and Transport Facilitation Programme; the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) Short-Term Action Plan, and PIDA.
As the first wave of vehicles and pedestrians begin to use the new bridge, the regional economy will receive a much-needed boost through increased traffic throughout the North-South Corridor, a key trade route linking the port of Durban in South Africa to Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Mozambique, DR Congo, and up to Dar-es-Salaam in Tanzania.
The facility will effectively serve as a gateway for goods from landlocked Zambia and Botswana to the afore listed countries straddling the North-South Corridor, a geographical zone of about 279 million people, larger than the populations of France, Germany, the United Kingdom and Spain combined.
When completed, the bridge and one-stop-border-posts facilities will enhance regional trade, spur increased global competitiveness due to reduced time-based trade and transport costs, and reduction of transit time for freight and passengers from between three to eight days to less than half a day.
The Zambia Revenue Authority (ZRA) said on Friday an audit shows mining companies owe the government more than the state is due to pay them in tax refunds.
Mining companies have been demanding Zambia pay the $550-$600 million due to them in Value Added Tax (VAT) refunds.
“When we put together what we owe the mining companies compared with what they are owing, you find that on the balance of numbers they are actually owing more,” ZRA Commissioner-General Kingsley Chanda said at a media briefing.
Chanda did not say how much mining companies owed the state but said it included penalties and interest. Mining companies pay government royalties and tax.
Rosewood is the generic name for several dark-red hardwood species found in tropical regions across the globe. It fetches very high prices because it’s strong, heavy, has a beautiful red hue and takes polish very well – and because the trees are becoming increasingly scarce.
On the Chinese market in 2014, for example, prices were in excess of USD$17,000 per ton. That’s ten times higher than the price of more standard tropical hardwood.
There’s a huge demand in China for rosewood logs to make hongmu – antique furniture. Hongmu was used historically by the imperial elite and is now coveted by China’s rising middle class. Supplies of the wood from markets in Latin America and South-East Asia have dwindled in recent years, so Africa has become a key source. Within Africa, Zambia has become one of China’s main rosewood exporters in the past decade.
But the harvesting of rosewood is often not done sustainably. Several African species have already received protection under the Convention on Trade in Endangered Species.
We researched the rosewood trade between China and Zambia in 2016 and 2017. We wanted to study the relationship between global and local sources of capital, rural development and environmental impacts. We also wanted to see whether regulations, adopted to preserve natural resources like rosewood, provide the right set of incentives and disincentives for business to be sustainable.
The most common name used to identify rosewood in Zambia is mukula. But because several different species are categorised as mukula, and because comprehensive inventories are lacking, current rosewood stocks are not known. Legal uncertainties and corruption mean that laws, regulations, or sustainable forest management plans, related to rosewood, are rarely implemented and monitored.
This means that Zambia doesn’t benefit much from rosewood trade. Its forests are being decimated, causing serious environmental degradation. And though rural Zambians and their families do profit, this is short-lived. We also found that because the trade isn’t being effectively monitored or taxed, the government loses about USD$ 3.2 million in potential revenue every year.
A couple of big factors have allowed this situation to thrive.
The first is that mukula was only recently added to Zambia’s list of official commercial species. It was previously recorded under the general term “other”, so its trade wasn’t properly recorded or taxed appropriately. In addition, even though there’s an export ban on mukula leaving in log form, it has been allowed to leave the country almost exclusively in log form. Aside from legal considerations, this defies the purpose of the ban, which is to boost local processing and job creation in Zambia.
The second is that the government has been issuing and lifting various regulations in rapid sequence over the years, which have left enforcement agencies on the ground unclear about what rules applied where and when. This has boosted corruption, which means many officials have no incentive to ensure the trade is well regulated. About US$1.7 million is paid in rosewood-linked bribes each year. Most of which are collected along Zambian roads where trucks must make payments to proceed towards the points of export.
The results of these legal uncertainties can be seen in the graph below which shows log exports, as recorded by Zambian authorities through the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, and log imports as recorded by Chinese authorities.
The discrepancies, in volume and value, between the declarations are huge. For example, in 2016, Zambia declared exports for about 3,000 cubic metres at an approximate value of USD$900,000. China, meanwhile, declared imports of about 61,000 cubic metres for an approximate value of USD$87 million. Because Chinese customs do not recognise mukula as rosewood, we cannot determine the amount, but because Zambia exports only a few species whose volumes haven’t changed much over the years, we are sure that mukula represents the vast majority of those volumes.
It’s clear that a series of measures, in particular log-export and production bans adopted over the years, don’t work. Bans only make sense when coupled with other measures, like effective enforcement or a system of incentives. In fact, bans have contributed to keep the rosewood market underground without really affecting harvest and trade. But solutions are possible.
Our research suggests that four points need immediate attention.
The strategy of continuously adopting and lifting production and export bans is not working and should be abandoned. If a ban is deemed necessary, a coherent enforcement strategy must be adopted, enforced and monitored. If not, The Zambian Forestry Department should propose a revision of the legal framework and ensure logs for export are appropriately taxed.
The Zambian government must support the Forests Act of 2015. This aims to protect the country’s forests and people’s long-term livelihoods by implementing innovative management and monitoring measures, including community, joint and private forest management approaches.
The governments of Zambia and China need to engage in discussions with their respective CITES management and scientific authorities and list mukula as a species that may be threatened with extinction, should the trade not be closely controlled. This would hopefully limit international demand.
Countries in sub-Saharan Africa should learn from each other’s environmental challenges and work better together. While Zambian forests were emptied of rosewood – and the government was deliberating potential countermeasures – buyers and traders had already moved into Malawi, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Mozambique. While trying to perfect domestic laws, the precious resource will already be gone.
By working together, the battle to save these fragile forests could be won.
Valued contributions to the research leading to this article were also made by: Xiaoxue Weng, George Schoneveld, Kaala Moombe, Nils Bourland, and Robert Nasi.
Paolo Omar Cerutti, Senior Scientist Centre for International Forestry Research, Centre for International Forestry Research and Davison Gumbo, Scientist with the Center for International Forestry Research, Centre for International Forestry Research
“China equals Hitler” said the sign held up in the Zambian capital Lusaka by a protester opposed to Beijing’s tightening grip on the economy of the southern African nation.
The demonstrator, James Lukuku, who leads a small political party, was picked up by police and spent several hours in a cell reflecting on his one-man protest.
But he is not alone in opposing China’s growing presence in President Edgar Lungu’s Zambia and in particular its major programme of loans to Lusaka.
In fact his criticism echoes concerns shared by many across swathes of Africa and beyond, where some fear that China’s mega-projects risk leaving already fragile economies in even worse shape.
“I want to bring to the attention of the international community the Chinese influence and corruption in Zambia,” said Lukuku who wore a white T-shirt emblazoned with the slogan #sayno2China.
China is the main investor in Zambia as it is in several other African countries and with its offers of “unconditional” aid, most public tenders are awarded to Chinese bidders.
In Lusaka and across the country, China is busy constructing airports, roads, factories and police stations with the building boom largely funded by Chinese loans.
‘These criminal debts’
“China is about to take everything from Zambia. They have taken over our economy through these criminal debts. This government is contracting debts from China even without parliamentary approval,” said Lukuku.
Zambian public debt is officially around $10.6 billion but suspicions have grown in recent months that the government is hiding its indebtedness — as happened in neighbouring Mozambique, which in 2016 was forced to admit it had kept secret $2 billion of borrowing.
Fearing that Zambia might be in a similar position, the International Monetary Fund at one point delayed talks over a $1.3 billion loan deal.
The slump in the price of copper, Zambia’s leading export, has led to fears that Lusaka might even struggle to service its existing debt.
Lukuku and his supporters believe that the state is on the verge of handing control of the Zesco national electricity company, Lusaka airport and the ZNBC state broadcaster to China.
Stung by the criticism that he was selling out to China, Lungu has hit back at critics.
“I implore you to ignore the misleading headlines that seek to malign our relationship with China by mischaracterising our economic cooperation to mean colonialism,” Lungu told lawmakers recently.
‘The dominance of Chinese’
Finance Minister Margaret Mwanakatwe has also come out to insist that, in the first half of 2018, $342 million was paid in interest to creditors, of which 53 percent were commercial sector — and only 30 percent of which were Chinese.
But the country’s main opposition party has put China’s debt dominance at the forefront of its campaign to unseat the government.
Opposition figure Stephen Katuka warned against the “rate Zambia is entertaining Chinese nationals which are displacing Zambians through big financial offers”.
Katuka, who is the secretary general of the United Party for National Development, described the replacement of Zambian workers with Chinese labourers — as is customary on Chinese-run projects — as “a time bomb”.
“If this situation is allowed to degenerate, it may lead to aggression on foreign nationals,” he added.
There have been several high profile incidents of Chinese managers allegedly mistreating their Zambian workers.
“In some instances the Chinese are beating Zambians in places of work for simply failing to follow instructions,” said Katuka.
Typically reclusive, China’s ambassador to Lusaka Lie Jie was drawn into the growing furore to defend Beijing’s intentions.
“I feel strange when I hear we want to colonise Africa,” he told journalists recently, categorically denying that China was seeking to buy Zambia’s publicly-owned companies.
Economist and head of Zambia’s Private Sector Development Association Yosuf Dodia told AFP that Chinese investment should be seen as an opportunity not a burden.
“Zambia has been dominated by the West for 100 years… and we are seeing poverty all over the continent,” he said.
“The partnership level is around $10 billion — and that is good. There is no other country that offers those kinds of opportunities.”
The benefit of such vast investment is not always felt on the ground, however.
“I am not happy with the dominance of Chinese contractors. In the first place, the money that they get from these contracts is externalised and all that they return here are meagre wages,” said Edgar Syakachoma, himself a contractor.
“Let the government also give us the contracts so that they benefit Zambians.”
Angolan and Zambian held the symbolic launch of the visa-free agreement for ordinary passports holders of both countries.
The ceremony held in Luanda, presided over by the Secretary of State for Interior, José Bamóquina Zau, was attended by the Zambian ambassador, Lawrance Chalungumona, and Foreign Affairs Secretaries, Tete António, and Tourism, José Alves Primo.
The Zambian diplomat declared that the symbolic act represents the opening of the two-way doors for a closer relationship between Zambia and Angola. The implementation of this process, will allow Zambians and Angolans to travel without needing to apply for entry visas, have been created in their country added .
While the secretary, José Bamóquina Zau, recalled the importance of the excellent relations of cooperation between the Ministries of Interior of the two countries, which also extend to the agreement of extradition or exchange of prisoners and others. The bilateral agreement on visa waiver in ordinary passports, signed last May, applies to nationals of both countries for holidays, tourism, family visits, private business, as well as official or transit visits.
The visa waiver agreement allows a stay in the visited territory for a period of 30 extendable days, not to exceed 90 days per year.
Zambia did not sign the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) as it was still conducting internal negotiations on some protocols in the agreement, a Zambian official said Thursday.
On Wednesday, 44 African countries signed the agreement to launch the AfCFTA during an extraordinary summit of the African Union (AU) in Kigali, Rwanda.
Zambia's foreign minister Joseph Malanji said Zambia only signed the African Free Trade Area Declaration and not the agreement. He said in a statement that Zambia had negotiated the protocol on goods and services and the dispute settlement mechanism, while the remaining protocols, including on trade competition, investment and the intellectual property, were yet to be negotiated.
The minister, however, said the signing of the declaration shows that Zambia stands with all other African countries in the quest to improve intra-Africa trade.
Meanwhile, Zambia's commerce, trade and industry minister Christopher Yaluma said in the same statement that Zambia will not sign the protocol on the free movement of people as the country was not ready for it.
He said the government would only engage in treaties that had a positive bearing on Zambian people especially the youth and women. The decision to form the AfCFTA was adopted in January 2012 during the 18th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the AU while negotiations were launched by the AU in 2015.
The AfCFTA was aimed at creating a single continental market for goods and services with free movement of businesses and investments. According to the AU, this will pave the way for the establishment of the Continental Customs Union and the African Customs Union. The AfCFTA could create an Africa market of over 1.2 billion people with a GDP of 2.5 trillion U.S. dollars.
The agreement, after being signed, will be submitted for ratification by state parties before it can enter into force.
AU targets to ensure effective implementation of continental free trade area within one year
The African Union (AU) targets to start implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) within a year, AU Commissioner for Trade and Industry Albert Muchanga has said.
The implementation of the AfCFTA requires at least 22 countries to ratify the agreement to establish the free trade area, Muchanga told Xinhua on the sidelines of the 10th Extraordinary Session of the Assembly of the AU on the AfCFTA on Wednesday.
Forty-four African countries signed the agreement on the AfCFTA during the one-day extraordinary session in Kigali, capital city of Rwanda. The agreement will be submitted for ratification by state parties in accordance with their domestic laws.
"Our target is to ensure that within a year, a minimum number of 22 African countries have ratified the AfCFTA for its effective implementation," said Muchanga.
"After, we shall have a comprehensive plan for the AfCFTA that outlines what topics will be discussed and reviewed during the AfCFTA implementation," he said, adding that these will include among others discussions on tariff reductions to ensure smooth trading under the continental free trade area.
The decision to form the AfCFTA was adopted in January 2012 during the 18th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the AU while AfCFTA negotiations were launched by the AU in 2015.
The AfCFTA is aimed at creating a single continental market for goods and services with free movement of businesses and investments. This, according to the AU, will pave the way for accelerating the establishment of the Continental Customs Union and the African Customs Union.
Vehicles using the Victoria Falls bridge between Zimbabwe and Zambia will have to pay up to $30 in toll fees from next year, as the two countries say they need to raise funds to maintain the facility.
The two neighbours share the 110 year old bridge, whose maintenance is carried out by the National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) and Zambia Railways (ZR). In a statement, issued on Friday the Emerged Railways Properties, a joint company owned by NRZ and ZR said the toll fees will come into effect from January 1.
“Following the enactment of Statutory Instrument 171 of 2012 in terms of Section 6 of the Toll Roads Act (Chapter 13:13) published in the government gazette dated 2 November 2012, all motorists traversing the Zambia-Zimbabwe border of Victoria Falls are hereby notified the Emerged Railways Properties will commence the collection of Toll Fees for the use of the Victoria Falls Bridge effective 1 January 2017,” the statement reads.
The Road Transport and Safety Agency (RATSA) will collect the fees on behalf of the two governments at the two border posts and entry points to the bridge. Haulage trucks will pay $30 while buses and mini buses which are mostly used by tour operators on a daily basis will fork out $7 and $5 per entry respectively.
Heavy vehicles will part with $10 while taxis and small vehicles below two tonnes will be exempted, according to the statement. The bridge, said ERP in the statement, is key to the socio-economic life of both countries as well as the SADC region hence the need for regular maintenance for it to cope with increasing levels of traffic.
“It is against this background that the government of Zambia and Zimbabwe have resolved to put in place the requisite legal instrument for the tolling of the bridge. The Victoria Falls toll fees will be used specifically for the refurbishment and maintenance of the bridge in order to guarantee its long term existence.”
The bridge was constructed in 1905 by the Cleveland Bridge and Engineering Company and is the gateway to the Sadc region.