Swaziland, South Africa and Mozambique are about to join forces and put together one of the biggest and most exciting tourism projects ever. TOM WILTSHIRE-ROBBINS reports.
A major tri-nation tourism development plan, stretching from the Lubombo mountains to the Indian Ocean, may be one of the most exciting initiatives to emerge from Southern Africa in the run-up to the millenium. The Governments of South Africa, Swaziland and Mozambique have put their heads together and come up with a venture that aims to capitalise on ecotourist philosophy to the benefit of tourists, local communities and wildlife alike.
In March, a meeting will be held when it is hoped that a concrete strategy for implementing current plans, will emerge. At the moment, a number of projects are in the pipeline but no particular procedure has been developed. However, a task team comprising two members from each state is already meeting regularly and various technical teams are being established. Distinct from the more northern Maputo Corridor - an industrialisation programme linking Johannesburg with Maputo - the Lubombo Initiative seeks to maximise the potential for ecotourism within the region. Specifically, it is concentrating on three areas: KwaZulu-Natal province, eastern Swaziland and southern Mozambique.
According to South African officials, one of the ideals that is underpinning the scheme is to improve tourist's access to the region, including a new coastal road linking Maputo to Durban. Heavy transport vehicles are also set to benefit from plans to upgrade the road that runs from northern KwaZulu-Natal to Maputo via Swaziland. In order to make cross-country travel a little more swift, stream-lined border controls and the reopening of old border posts are also on the cards.
Indeed, the underlying theme is to interlink development between the three countries. Although, northern KwaZulu-Natal is one of the poorest areas in South Africa, the three-nation region is rich in game parks, spectacular estuaries, beaches and marine reserves. Therefore the overall potential, especially along Mozambique's undeveloped coast, is vast.
One particularly promising idea from South Africa proposes using the Jozini Dam to put 30,000 hectares of crops under irrigation along the Pongola River. This could possibly be extended to Mozambique, where the river is known as Rio Maputo. As Dr Ben Ngubane, the KwaZulu-Natal Minister of Finance and Agriculture, explained, the aim would be to...