THE Government has partnered Botswana and Mozambique in a $600 million project to roll out nearly 2 000km of railway line cutting across the three countries to facilitate trade. Ministers representing the three governments yesterday signed a Memorandum of Understanding committing themselves to the Port Techobanine Heavy Haul Rail Project.The Minister of Transport and Infrastructural Development, Dr Joram Gumbo, Mozambique’s Minister of Transport and Communications Mr Carlos Alberto Mesquita and Botswana’s Minister of Minerals, Energy and Water Resources Mr Onkokane Kitso Mokaila signed the agreement in Bulawayo. Dr Gumbo said Zimbabwe stands to benefit more from the project as almost 1 500km of the railway line will be in Zimbabwe. “Only about 100km of rail will be in Botswana and another 100km will be in Mozambique. But if you look at the stretch that is about 1 500km, that means the longest rail will be in Zimbabwe. That means a lot to our country in terms of transit payments,” he said.
Dr Gumbo said each government is expected to contribute about $200 million to the project and due to its magnitude, the Government would engage the business sector in public private partnerships. “It is hoped and anticipated that the project will provide improved distribution of regional traffic among corridors in Southern Africa, increase regional integration and international cooperation and provide for fast implementation of a fundamental regional transportation network,” he said. Dr Gumbo said the deal would ensure easy access to ports in Mozambique which will decongest the South African ones. He said the country is facilitating the transportation of fuel from Mozambique to Botswana and if the project succeeds it will ensure cheaper passage of goods.
“The Ponta Techobanine Inter-regional Heavy Haul Railway project is expected to facilitate investment in mining, transport and manufacturing sectors that have stunted in Zimbabwe and Botswana alike due to lack of seaport facilities for importation of material and components and exports of ore products and finished commodities,” said Dr Gumbo. Minister Moikaila said the MoU was a sign of commitment from the countries involved and if the project succeeds it will boost regional trade. He said the railway project was important for his country following the recent discovery of 212 billion tonnes of coal that they will want to export to Europe and Asia.Minister Moikaila said Mozambique’s ports were an alternative as South African ones were very busy while there is no infrastructure linking Botswana and Namibia. Minister Mesquita said the project would boost agriculture, the economic backbone of Southern Africa and challenged member countries to invest intensively in farming for both export and domestic use.
“It is time that we don’t work alone. We have to share our dreams and visions. We’ve to put up things together for different sort of benefits . . . I can tell you that there are international companies even from China that are very much keen to come and bring finances as well as the technology and that’s exactly what we’re analysing,” he said. Minister Mesquita urged Sadc countries to specialise in agricultural activities saying farming can transform the economic fortunes of the region. “Africa and countries in Southern Africa we need to develop through agriculture. We may have other resources like minerals but land and water are the resources that we’ve to capitalise on. We’ve to drive all our efforts into production, productivity and matching it with energy from coal, gas, water, wind and so on,” he said. Minister Mesquita said success in agricultural activities needs viable infrastructure for the transport sector to move the produce.