Most affected has been cargo as most of the mines have cut back on investment. With Zambia’s reliance on copper only adding strength to the storm. According to a World Bank analysis, Zambia is one country that will not gain from China’s switch to a more consumption-based growth model. And so will need to focus more on agricultural exports as demand for food is expected to increase in China as imports of commodities drop.
As a result, Zambia’s ranking in the World Bank’s “Doing Business” report has declined from 91st in 2015 to 97th in 2017. Importantly from a logistics perspective is that it declined by 42 places in the “trading across borders” category from 110 to 152 worldwide.
In spite of the somewhat unfavourable macroeconomic backdrop it is not all doom and gloom. As Zambia’s geographical location makes it a natural transport hub and transit-point within the sub-Saharan region. With a 12 million population, Zambia may be considered a small market but the geographical accident of having to share borders with eight other countries gives it the advantage of serving as a transit and access point to these countries’ population of over 170 million.
This strategic, land-linked position provides a unique opportunity for Zambia to benefit from the fluid movement of goods and people within the sub-region, already linked through road and rail networks. Being a member of the Common Market of East and South Africa (COMESA) and the South African Development Community (SADC), Zambia not only benefits from these groups’ preferential tariff schemes but more importantly, from the various sub-regional infrastructure development projects that are being implemented through these trade groups.
These projects, including the NorthSouth Corridor 2, which means to link the port of Dar es Salaam to the Copperbelt and the Copperbelt to the southern ports of South Africa will notably enhance access into the country and the country’s access to its neighbours as transport, transit and customs requirements are eased along with the presence of better road and rail networks.
Zambia also enjoys access to the African Great Lakes through the port town of Mpulungu on the southern shore of Lake Tanganyika. And plans to connect the port to the Zambian rail network. Whilst improving road networks to Mozambique and Angola to extend access to the markets and ports within these countries.
For years Zambia having seen its lack of linkage to coastal areas as a disadvantage in terms of its international trade. But it is hoped that this will change markedly by 2030 as the country, attempts to leverage its competitive advantage in trade via its geographic position and by those who see Zambia’s central situation in southern and central Africa as a blessing in disguise and with a government who firmly view the country as ‘land-linked’, as opposed to being ‘land-locked’.
With a large number of ongoing roads and railway projects on the drawing board, Zambia’s government is working overtime to make these land links a concrete reality into all of Zambia’s eight neighbours beyond the country’s borders. The Ministry of Transport and Communication has crafted a new transport policy aimed at transforming Zambia into a regional transport hub with Zambia well positioned to leverage these inherent trade and investment advantages.
If these plans come to fruition, all major players in the various transport sub-sectors and industry stand poised to gain from the 600 million people in the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the Great Lakes region all within a radius of 2,000 kilometres.
Minister of Transport and Communication Brian Mushimba has declared that government will ensure that Zambia becomes a regional transport and business investment nerve centre saying, “Zambia ought to exploit its geographical vantage point by creating a regional hub suitable for all forms of investment considering that its centrality taps into COMESA, SADC and the Great Lakes region which account for over 600 million people. Now that’s a ready market for many businesses in the area.”
Regarded a haven of political stability, a centrally located land-linked Zambia offers a triangulation of excellent transit routes to seaports in east Africa, south-west Africa and South Africa. With several regional transport corridors traversing from north to south and east to west and vice versa.
Prospective investors in different economic sectors, therefore, have a great deal to gain from transporting and marketing produce to major regional markets.
In its quest to transform Zambia into a regional hub, the Ministry of Transport and Communication is also completing the National Transport Policy designed to promote sustainable development across all modes of transport. Having reached an advanced stage in developing its National Transport Master Plan and the National Communications Master Plan. Both aimed at asserting and defining the path to an efficient and integrated transport and communications future of the country.
Zambia has over the last several years embarked on major infrastructural development projects such as the Link-Zambia 8000 project – targeting the upgrading and construction of inter-district roads, the upgrading of airports, railway and maritime transport all with a goal to land link the entirety of Zambia. Whilst continuing to implement the Link Zambia 8000 project, which has covered 3,700 kilometre of road construction and improvement.
In partnership with transit countries Zambia is also collaborating to develop transport corridors such as the Nacala Road Corridor linking Zambia, Zimbabwe and Mozambique to the Indian Ocean, the Lobito Corridor linking Zambia to the Atlantic Ocean through the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Angola, the Walvis Bay Corridor linking Zambia and DRC to the Atlantic Ocean through Namibia, the Dar-es-salaam Road Corridor and the Tazara Railway Corridor linking Zambia to the Indian Ocean through Tanzania. Finally, implementing the Lusaka 400 and Copperbelt 400 road projects will also help to ease the congestion of traffic and drive to a much more efficient transportation of goods and services.
In the aviation sector meanwhile, the Ministry of Transport and Communication are also looking at re-establishing the national airline – Zambia Airways through partnerships with other countries or airlines willing to grant favourable terms and conditions and developing an aviation strategy designed to reclaim its status of a preferred tourism destination in Africa.
Having slumped to 116th in the world, 16th in Africa and number nine in sub-Saharan Africa as a preferred destination, a situation that could be attributed to flight encumbrances and the prohibitive cost of getting there. If Zambia emerges as a regional transport and business hub, it’s also likely to become a preferred tourism destination, given that natural attractions abound including pristine landscape and diverse wildlife and game reserves with over 3,000 different species in the ecosystem. Once the new Kenneth Kaunda and Copperbelt international airports are completed, it is hoped Zambia will gain added passenger and cargo airlines by having convenient and efficient transit services to all major regional destinations.
Zambia’s Railway Development Strategy also has plans to create a railway network that should transform the rail sub-sector into a preferred workable and effective mode of transport. With a new strategy aimed at making railway transport more cost-effective and the preferred mode of transporting cargo. Minister Mushimba having said the Zambian government has invested in modernising, expanding and rehabilitating the Zambia Railways limited infrastructure and machinery, including rolling stock, and the TAZARA permanent railway and reconstruction of the inter-mine railway lines.
The Zambian government has also embarked on developing the Chipata-Petauke-Serenje railway, to link the country to two regional corridors-Dar es Salaam and Nacala, and as of last year has signed an engineering and procurement construction (EPC) contract to the tune of US$2.3 billion with China Civil Engineering Construction Company (CCECC). Whilst the other major railway construction project underway is the Chingola-Solwezi-Jimbe line on the border with Angola by North-Western Railway Company. A US$1.2 billion project aimed at serving and providing modern alternative copper trade routes of Dar es Salaam and Durban in South Africa.
On the drawing board is also the Nseluka-Mpulungu railway on a 192 km stretch, expected to cost US$991 million. A route expected to boost trade in the Great Lakes region around Lake Tanganyika. With detailed engineering designs for this project expected to be presented to government imminently. The other upcoming project is the Livingstone-Kazungula-Katima Mulilo railway. The government has commissioned a preliminary feasibility study, which shows that the 200 km railway will cost approximately US$824 million. Finally, the Kafue-Lion’s Den (Zimbabwe) railway line whose feasibility studies are still underway.
On the maritime front, the Zambian government is working on wide scale legislation and reform of institutional frameworks in the maritime sub-sector. The Ministry of Transport and Communication seeking to create an inland water transport authority to drive the water transport development agenda. Mpulungu Port is under a modernisation programme, with a major infrastructure upgrade on course. Once completed this will increase volumes of trade and accommodate bigger transport vessels to ferry people and tourists in and around the Great Lakes region. Given that in some parts of the country, water transport plays a pivotal role in the movement of people, cargo, farm produce, farm inputs and goods and services.
Zambia is then on the verge of a transportation revolution, with the government attacking the country’s transport infrastructure challenges head-on under a number of big-budget initiatives.
As Zambia’s Transport and Communications Minister Brian Mushimba stressed, “For our government, the vision is to make Zambia the hub of transport and communication in the SADC region. We feel we can be that central country that everything can come through and filter to the rest of the countries through here and we want by 2030 to be that. And these investments we are putting in all these sectors are speaking to that vision.”