Thursday, July 18, 2024

Botswana, Zambia unveil SADC’s bridge of economic activity

KAZUNGULA – The Southern African Development Community (SADC) on Monday showcased itself as a regional island of stability in a sea of continental chaos. 

Botswana and Zambia opened the close to P2 billion Kazungula Bridge at a ceremony marked by ‘praises and cheers’ from government officials and citizens of the two countries including their neighbours – Zimbabwe, Namibia and Democratic Republic of Congo.  

While the two countries – Botswana and Zambia – will bear the construction costs of the bridge, in the name of brotherhood and sisterhood, the Kazungula Bridge has informally been dubbed the ‘SADC Bridge’. 

This is largely because the project, encompassing the bridge and one border post infrastructures, is seen as a regional economic flagship project. The Kazungula Bridge which has since been commissioned and now operational is expected to ease access to international markets through connectivity with major seaports as well as contribute to maximising the operational efficiency of the SADC north-south corridor and enhance regional economic integration.

SADC Heads of state
SADC Heads of State

The new bridge is expected to also ease congestion at the Zimbabwe – South Africa’s Beitbridge as well as provide a vital link between southern African nations with the rest of the continent. According to government officials from both Botswana and Zambia bottlenecks caused by frequent breakdown of the pontoon that used to cross the Zambezi River usually resulted in a snarl up of commercial traffic. 

The construction of the Kazungula Bridge and its associated infrastructure began in December 2014 and was paid for on 50-50 basis by the Botswana and Zambian government with the aid of co-financers, African Development Bank (AfDB) and Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).  

The Bridge has six main towers standing in a row, which provides a fine view and is expected to become a landmark in the region. It has specifications of length 18.5m width and span arrangement of 923m. This package also includes an approach road on the Botswana side of 302m and 416m on the Zambia side.

Speaking at the commissioning ceremony on Monday, President Masisi said that Botswana has always been of the view that the Kazungula Bridge will open avenues for improved trade, job creation and economic diversification in the two countries. 

“By and large, the bridge will significantly accelerate SADC’s regional integration agenda which we are vigorously pursuing”, Masisi said.

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