Phase one of the construction of the Kazungula 923-metre-long permanent rail and road bridge between Zambia and Botswana is nearing completion with the construction of the bridge on the Zambian side complete.
Kazungula Bridge, a multinational project on the North South Corridor (NSC) in the SADC region, is part of the infrastructure improvement programme intended to boost regional integration.
The NSC serves the economies of eight SADC countries, and the Kazungula road and rail bridge over the Zambezi River would be the key trade route linking the port of Durban in South Africa to the inland countries of Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi, the DRC, and Mozambique and up to Dar-es-Salaam in Tanzania.
Construction of offices and staff accommodations are also progressing well, with some of the offices already occupied.
The construction of the Kazunugla Bridge is a bilateral initiative between Botswana and Zambia, which commenced in December 2014 at a cost of about US$234 million.
It is due for completion in the third quarter of this year.
In a joint statement tthe Botswana’s Permanent Secretary Ministry of Transport and Communications, Neil Fitt and Zambia’s Acting Permanent Secretary Ministry of Works and Supply, Joe Kapembwa said that construction of a temporary bridge on the Zambian side has been completed.
The bridge on Botswana side is scheduled for completion in June this year.
Phase one of the project comprises the construction of a 923-metre-long rail and road bridge, while phase two involves construction of one-stop border post facilities and ramps on the Botswana side and the final phase involves construction of similar facilities and ramps on the Zambian side.
Phase one started in December 2014 and is expected to be completed in December 2018 while phase two is expected to commence this month.
In 2014 the project suffered a blow when one of the funders, Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), which was supposed to have invested over US$110 million into the project pulled out over a tender dispute leaving financial gaps in the funding of the project.
These led to delays to the project because of the disagreements with some of the stakeholders.
Southern Times has since gathered that the project is over 200 hundred days behind schedule.
The estimated total project cost is approximately US$259.3 million funded through a co-financing arrangement with African Development Bank and EU-Africa Infrastructure Trust Fund grant.
In 2014, Botswana’s Transport Hub Co-ordinator, Goitsemang Morekisi attributed the delay in the construction of the Kazungula Bridge Project to JICA’s disagreeing to the technical evaluation of the three bids which were submitted for the project, requesting for a re-evaluation.
It is understood that before a tender could be awarded, a dispute arose early this year over the technical evaluation of bids from three shortlisted firms.
The firms included a joint venture between Japan’s Shimizu and South African Stefanutti, South Korea’s Daewoo and China Major Bridge Corporation.
In April 2014, ministers of transport of the countries met the Japanese delegation in Kasane to discuss the issues surrounding the tender evaluation. Following the meeting, the two governments agreed to award the contract without the support of JICA, according to Morekisi.
Morekisi said that the two governments have since decided to award the tender for the construction of the bridge to Daewoo, while other components of the project, which include the building of two one-stop border posts, are still to be awarded.
“An award of the contract for package 1, which refers to the bridge only, was made to Daewoo E&C at the sum of US$162 million on the July 26, 2014,” said Morekisi.
Zambia and Botswana officials and Daewoo representatives met in Livingstone, Zambia, on August last year to thrash out details on the scope of work procurement rules and contract terms.
The project scope includes the building of a bridge linking Botswana and Zambia over the Zambezi River to replace the existing ferry and includes one-stop border post facilities at Kazungula.
Many economic spinoffs, such as reduced border transit time, improved procedures on trade facilitation, improved border management operations, and consequently, increased traffic and reduced time based transport and trade cost, are expected once the bridge is complete.
This project, it is anticipated, will directly benefit populations and businesses engaged in mining, agricultural and service sectors, which contribute 60-80 percent of the region’s GDP, according to the project appraisal report of October 2011.
The benefits, it notes, will be through increased opportunities for intra-and extra-regional trade activities, integration of the economies served by the corridor and the creation of jobs.
The project implementation is expected to be five years. The economies of SADC, of which Botswana and Zambia are major players, contribute nearly 40 percent of the GDP of Sub-Saharan Africa equivalent to US$340 billion (2007 figures).