Given Africa's perennial logistical difficulties brought about largely because of inadequate and underinvested infrastructure, it was with some excitement, as well as trepidation that 350 representatives from Tanzania, DR Congo, Zambia, Malawi, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and South Africa met with those from the African Development Bank (AfDB), UN Economic Commission for Africa, WTO, African Union Commission, EU Commission, EIB and the World Bank, as well as other interested parties and potential funders in Lusaka to discuss the vital North-South Corridor Project.
It is a measure of how seriously the project is valued by stakeholders that four heads of state were in attendance; these were from Kenya, South Africa, Uganda and the hosts, Zambia. They represented the East African Community (EAC), the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA).
WTO Director Pascal Lamy commented that "The Corridor project will promote development and poverty alleviation in the southern Africa region and promote deeper regional integration. Such initiatives have never been more urgent than in the current global economic climate."
The Corridor project consists of two proposed corridors. The first, the Dar es Salaam Corridor, would link the port of Dar es Salaam with the Copperbelt, and the second, the North-South Corridor, will link the Copperbelt with the southern ports of South Africa.
The purpose of the project is to reduce transit times and thus costs for surface travel. The improvements to road and rail infrastructure, it is believed, should enable greater production and more trade--leading to faster growth.
The proposals include the upgrading of 4,000km of roads, 600km of rail and a boost of 36 gigawatts to the Southern African Power Pool by 2015.
Currently, transport costs are equivalent to between 20-40% of production costs for landlocked African nations compared to around 10% for developed nations. Six days is not an unusual time frame for customs clearance at some African borders and ship offloading at some ports takes around three days.
Moving copper from the DR Congo to South Africa, which could be done in Europe in about two days currently takes two to three weeks. The cost of the difference is around $16,000 per load per week.
Due to railway bottlenecks, transit time between Durban and Ndola is currently 21 days by rail, compared to...