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The Kazungula Bridge Transforming Trade in Southern Africa

Kazungula Bridge
According to the World Bank, 58% of the Zambian population lives in extreme poverty, and 13% are unemployed. Although it is one of the poorest countries in the world, Zambia has an abundance of natural resources. However, it is landlocked. Its neighboring country Botswana, on the other hand, has a significantly lower percentage of poverty, around 20% of the population. A large part of its economy depends solely on diamonds which makes the country vulnerable to external economic factors. Both Zambia and Botswana would greatly benefit from increased trade to fuel economic growth and tackle poverty. However, the completion of the Kazungula Bridge will transform trade and boost economic growth.

The Zambezi River

The Zambezi river separates Zambia and Botswana. More specifically, this flow of water joins five countries together: Zambia, Angola, Namibia, Zimbabwe and Botswana. Separated only by the river, this geographical point forms one of Africa’s most important trade triangles. The area is vitally important to expanding the local markets of the countries involved. Before, the only way to cross the river was to load trucks onto a pontoon and wait for good weather. Now, according to African Business, the completion of the Kazungula Bridge will become “a key driver for the progress and sustainable economic growth of the African continent.”

Life Before the Kazungula Bridge

Before the building of the Kazungula Bridge, crossing between Zambia and Botswana was difficult and time-consuming. According to CNN, the river was a major obstacle to trucks and traders “from Lubumbashi in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to Durban, South Africa…” Vehicles would load up two by two into pontoons just to be hindered by strong currents and heavy rains. What was physically a 10-15 minute journey would take up to 15 days when waiting for the right weather conditions.

Furthermore, going through customs was a complicated process, especially with all the different countries involved at this major trading point. According to African Business, “traders and transporters along Southern Africa’s North-South Corridor have long been dogged by decrepit infrastructure, border delays and traffic jams, heightening both the cost and time of trade.”

Looking into the Future

Now, with the Kazungula Bridge in place, the passage has become much easier. The bridge is dramatically reducing congestion, lowering the cost of business and boosting trade not only between Zambia and Botswana but also around the world. According to CNN, copper from the DRC, Zambia and Tanzania pass through before heading toward China. Food from South Africa and mining equipment from Tanzania pass through before going to the rest of Africa.

Carlos Lopez, an economist and professor at the University of Cape Town, believes the Kazungula Bridge will spark trade and tourism. “We are talking about the confluence of Victoria Falls, Chobe, and Zambia’s most famous national parks… The potential to boost that type of eco-tourist offer is enormous…” With the level of poverty in Zambia and other neighboring countries, the completion of the Kazungula will hopefully be a boost to the economy. As truck driver Memory Lambie says, crossing into Zambia used to take two weeks with 10km long queues. “Now, it’s easy,” she says, “The bridge is 100% perfect to us.”

 – Emilie Zhang
Photo: Flickr