Vice President, Ponatshego Kedikilwe on Friday was joined by his Zambian counterpart, Dr Guy Scott, and other dignitaries for a ground breaking ceremony for the Kazungula Bridge Project.
Kedikilwe said the kazungula bridge project demonstrates a common resolve to advance issues of sustainable development that will open up avenues for improved trade, job creation, and economic diversification. The project will not only benefit Botswana and Zambia, but the entire region and the continent.
To develop transport corridors and enhance regional integration, the SADC Member States through their Regional Integration Programme have prioritised the construction of Kazungula Bridge. It has taken perseverance and determination by Botswana and Zambia to reach this stage. The ground breaking stage. That it was not an easy journey to reach this stage is part of history now. We have overcome the huddles we therefore have to celebrate.
The project is estimated to cost US$259.3 million (P2.4 billion). Botswana and Zambia have come a long way. Botswana and Zambia are destined to go a long way. We have long enjoyed excellent and mutually beneficial relations in many fields of human endeavour. We owe a debt of gratitude to Zambia for our development in areas such as education, health, agriculture, defence and security. Today, we gladly add transport to this list, which I have no doubt will continue to propel our relations to greater heights.
The current arrangement of crossing the Zambezi River using a ferry under the circumstances has served us well over the years, however, the system is no longer coping with modern demands of facilitating faster and easier movement of people and goods. The ferry mode truly belongs to the relics. Today’s highly competitive markets call for faster and higher service delivery. This challenges us to ensure that the traffic traversing our corridor remains equally competitive.
The contract for the construction of the Bridge has been signed between the two Governments and Daewoo E & C. The ceremony therefore marks the beginning of the construction of the Kazungula Bridge; a project which will take four years to complete. The total money flow to Kasane/Kazungula over the 4 year period should be many millions of Pula. Botswana and Zambian locals should take full advantage of this opportunity. Authorities must equally ensure that citizen empowerment is promoted to the hilt.
It is envisaged that the bridge project will become a beehive of commercial activity that will bring together the four countries of Botswana, Zambia, Namibia and Zimbabwe to create the, Upper Zambezi Development Zone.
There is currently a good regional omen. The ZIZABONA (Zimbabwe, Zambia, Botswana and Namibia) a joint development Project Agreement and Shareholders Agreement on regional electricity transmission under connection. The project is proceeding apace. The Kazungula bridge project coincides with concluded Agreement between Botswana and South Africa to build two bridges on the Limpopo River, one at Ramotswa and the other at Platjan near Bobonong. The two bridges form part of the Kazungula Bridge in terms of the regional transport corridor.
The three bridges will greatly facilitate trade and boost the regional economy in many ways, including reduction of transit time. The present inordinate delays are not only costly but also hazardous socially. Improved Boarder Management will facilitate traffic flow and efficiency; and in turn have a positive effect on global competitiveness. The immediate social benefits for locals include the construction Industry Trust Fund whose mobile training unit which prepares locals to take up skilled jobs in the project. Other spin-offs include leasing of office space and rental of residential houses in Kasane/Kazungula and use of hotels. Opportunity, opportunity, opportunity!
Concurrent projects are Kasane Water Treatment Works for several villages in the hinterland. The Chobe/Zambezi Agro-Commercial Project Water Transfer Scheme to Panda for irrigation, the Supervising Engineer tender closes soon. This project is facilitated by the Zambezi Commission Agreement of 8 Member riparian States. Government through Botswana Railways is developing a Dry Port at Walvis Bay. The Kasane/Kazungula Sanitation Wastewater Treatment facility is on-going.
The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), which contributes 57.5% to the project, and the African Development Bank (AFDB), (which contributes 31.5% to the project), for extending financing to the two Member States, to deliver the project. The Governments of Botswana and Zambia equally contribute 9.2%, while the remaining 1.8% is financed by the EU-ITF Grant.
The SADC leaders should be commended for their visionary, transformative leadership and steadfast commitment to regional projects that will and are growing their economies for trade, job creation, diversification and the well-being of their people.
I urge the executing Ministries to remain diligent in their work, and to guard against unnecessary cost escalations, exercise professionalism to avoid delays and litigation.