One year on, the $260 million Kazungula Bridge has transformed Africa’s most unusual border crossing: Until a year ago, crossing the Zambezi River between Botswana and Zambia was a slow and congested affair.
For trucks moving along a key transport corridor, stretching from Lubumbashi in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to Durban, South Africa, the river was an obstacle without an elegant solution. Vehicles would load onto a pontoon, two at a time, when the current wasn’t too strong and the rains not too heavy. It was a 10 to 15 minutes journey that you could spend up to 15 days waiting for, recalls the head of one truck drivers’ association.
Today, the pontoons sit ashore, mercifully redundant. You might spot them while crossing the 923-meter (3,028-foot) long Kazungula Bridge, a $260 million project co-financed and co-operated by Botswana and Zambia, that a year into service has already transformed this southern African trade artery.
The bridge was conceived to speed up travel along the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) North-South Corridor, a route historically beset with costly border delays.
Copper from DRC, Zambia and Tanzania travels south before being shipped to China. Food from South Africa traveling north. Mining equipment from Tanzania heading to the DRC and Zambia. All pass across Kazungula, says Kaiko Salim Wamunyima, secretary general of the SADC Truck Drivers Association of Zambia.