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NGULA TO MWENDA-KASOMENO: FROM A LAND-LOCKED TO A LAND-LINKED ZAMBIA


THE commissioning of the 923-metre long and 18.5-metre wide Kazungula Bridge by Presidents Edgar Lungu of Zambia and Mokgweetsi Masisi of Botswana on May 10, 2021, was greeted with great excitement on both sides of the mighty Zambezi River.

The momentous occasion was witnessed by Presidents Felix Tshisekedi of Democratic Republic of Congo and current African Union Chairperson, Filipe Nyusi of Mozambique and current Chairperson of the Southern African Development Community, and Emmerson Mnangagwa of Zimbabwe.

To complement this land linkage, the Zambian and Congolese governments have already agreed to construct another key regional interconnector road and bridge, the Mwenda-Kasomeno Road and Bridge between Luapula Province in Zambia and Katanga region in DRC.

The Kazungula and Mwenda-Kasomeno bridges are part of Zambia’s key strategic infrastructural road projects intended to totally transform Zambia from a land-locked to a land-linked country; what with the expanded air-link infrastructure in form of airports.

The excitement that characterised the Kazungula Bridge commissioning went beyond the immediate participants in the event. It swamped truck drivers who cross the border very often, border officials on both sides of the border, cross border traders throughout the region and beyond, and ordinary citizens who watched the event live on television.

They all took in the positive implications and economic opportunities that the bridge has brought in the regional economies. Travel and transportation of goods and services is already a lot easier and faster than before due to the bridge and the one-stop border points on both sides of the border.

The Kazungula Bridge includes provision for a railway line; a futuristic plan to avoid building a new railway bridge should the need arise in future, for indeed it shall arise sooner than later.

The bridge is one of the key points land-linking the SADC and other regional and interregional geographical jurisdictions. This is in addition to the existing links between Zambia and her eight neighbours.

There are three existing bridges linking Zambia and Zimbabwe; the Chirundu Bridge, the Victoria Falls road and rail bridges, the oldest of Zambia’s road and rail links with the outside world, and the Kariba Dam Hydro Power Station bridge linking Siavonga in Zambia to Kariba town in Zimbabwe.

The Katimamulilo Bridge conveniently links Zambia and Namibia and is another key transit point for Zambia and the SADC and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa regions’ people, goods and services.

On the eastern side, Zambia is linked to Mozambique via the Chanida border crossing, 54 kilometres from Katete in Eastern Province. This is Zambia’s gateway to the Beira and Maputo ports in Mozambique.

It is a key transit route for a lot of Zambia’s copper as well as imports and cross border trade among ordinary citizens of both countries.

The Mwanawasa Bridge, commissioned by then acting President, Rupiah Banda in October 2008, is another important road bridge; it replaced the age old pontoon on the Luapula River linking Luapula Province to the Copperbelt through the Congo Pedicle Road.

This is the shortest route that links Luapula, Northern and Muchinga provinces to the Copperbelt Province. It is complemented by Zambia’s longest bridge, the Mukuku or Tuta Bridge, also on the Luapula River to the east of the Mwanawasa Bridge at Chembe. The Mukuku or Tuta Bridge links Luapula Province to Central Province and the rest of Zambia.

After the completion of the master piece Kazungula Bridge, from which both Zambia and Botswana are reaping great financial and quick transportation benefits already, the Zambian government’s eyes are set on the Mwenda-Kasomeno Road and bridge.

The road and bridge will link Luapula Province to Katanga region in DRC. It will be the shortest route between Eastern African ports and the Katanga region. This is a Private-Public Partnership project with a private financier.

Already mobilisation to start actual construction of the road and bridge is in top gear and prospects for job creation and business opportunities are looming large and raising great excitement on both sides of the Luapula River border.

With this and other projects which have already taken off, Luapula appears to be the province of the moment! From May 8 to 9, 2021, the Zambian government held a Luapula Energy Conference which brought together energy experts and financiers to brainstorm and showcase Luapula’s huge energy potential and financing prospects.

Soon, construction of an 800-megawatt hydro power station on the Luapula River, south of the Mwenda-Kasomeno Bridge will start once feasibility studies and technical details are fine tuned.

This will be yet another huge energy hub, soon after the completion of the Kafue Lower Hydro Power Station that is already adding value to Zambia’s energy resources.

Just as the Kafue power project drew in many workers during construction and permanent employees upon completion, so will the Luapula hydro power station.

These projects signify only a fraction of Zambia’s numerous latest achievements. They prove that Zambia is on a transformational trajectory that has changed the narrative from Zambia being a land-locked country to a land-linked boisterous regional economic epi-centre with boundless economic growth opportunities.

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