Tanzania, Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are planning to construct a 700 km bridge in an effort to boost intra-Africa trade.

DRC’s Katanga Province governor, Jean-Claude Kazembe stated that the bridge which is set to be constructed at Kasenga on the border between Congo and Zambia will cost $85 million (about Sh190 billion on the prevailing exchange rate). This bridge will make it easier to cross the Luapula River, which is a section of the River Congo.

The Congo River is Africa’s second-longest river and forms part of the border between Zambia and the DRC. Data shows that goods destined for DRC and Zambia account for 35 percent and 24 percent respectively of all cargo in transit that pass via the Dar es Salaam Port, hence the need for three countries to foster their trade relations by embarking on joint projects to improve infrastructure.

“So far, we have already held talks with the relevant ministry in Tanzania (the Ministry of Works, Communication and Transport) and they have shown a positive interest in the implementation of the bridge,” Mr Kazembe told journalists yesterday.

According to the DHL Global Connectedness Index, Africa is still the world’s least connected continent when considering the ease of moving people, trade, information and finance. It is therefore important for more emphasis to be placed on trade partnerships among African countries to drive seamless intra-Africa trade.

Current estimates indicate that trade volumes in sub-Saharan Africa will more than triple from 102.6 million tonnes in 2009 to 384.0 million tonnes in 2030, if the trade pathways are completed. In 2009, Southern Africa was driving trade volumes in the region, accounting for approximately 64 percent of total trade. By 2030, Southern Africa’s contribution to total trade volumes is estimated to be reduced to 53 percent as trade in other regions improve. Trade in East and West Africa is expected to grow to 181 million tonnes and 300 million tonnes respectively, with growth in West Africa slightly faster than that of East Africa.

Sub-Saharan Africa is plagued by poor and under-developed transportation infrastructure, limiting accessibility to consumers, hampering intra-regional trade and driving up import and export costs. African countries ought to be focused on developing ease of transportation on the continent and building trade relationships.

According to Kazembe, the bridge will ease transportation of people and cargo across the three countries. He also stated that a Chinese company had completed the first phase of the project’s feasibility study. “As soon as we finalise talks with Zambia, actual construction will start soon.”

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