Botswana and Zambia have inaugurated a road and rail bridge linking the two countries, marking the completion of a multimillion-dollar project aimed at easing congestion at border crossings and boosting trade.
Stretching for 923 metres (some 3,000 feet) over the Zambezi River, the curved Kazungula bridge provides a long-needed alternative route for hauliers.
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“This will lower the cost of doing business,” Zambia’s President Edgar Lungu said at the ribbon-cutting ceremony on Monday, anticipating “an increase in trade and competitiveness, job creation, tourism and other positive ripple effects”.
Botswana’s President Mokgweetsi Masisi said the bridge would “open avenues for improved trade”. He also said his country regarded Zambia as a key strategic partner in development, adding the project was a demonstration of the continued growing relations.
Construction of the $259m project began in December 2014, co-funded by the African Development Bank (AfDB), the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), regional governments and other grants.
Namibia and Zimbabwe joined the consortium in 2018.
KAZUNGULA BRIDGE AND ONE STOP BORDER FACILITY
— Botswana Government (@BWGovernment) May 10, 2021
The bridge will facilitate regional freight transport by allowing trucks to bypass the notorious Beitbridge border post between Zimbabwe and South Africa, which is perennially congested, with vehicles spending hours – and sometimes days – queueing to cross.
The inauguration ceremony was also witnessed by African Union Chairperson and Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) President Felix Tshisekedi. Zambia and the DRC are in the process of putting up a similar facility on their border.
Other dignitaries were Southern African Development Community Chairperson and Mozambique President Filipe Nyusi and Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa.