The Sunday Mail
Sunday Mail Reporter
The US$600 million Port Techobanine Inter-regional Heavy Haul Railway project – which is envisaged to move passenger traffic and cargo between Botswana, Zimbabwe and Mozambique – is one of the regional flagship projects set to gain traction after the latest round of engagements between Harare and Gaborone.
Zimbabwe and Botswana signed seven bilateral agreements at the close of the Second Bi-National Commission on Thursday.
The signing ceremony was presided over by Presidents Emmerson Mnangagwa and Mokgweetsi Masisi.
The agreements covered the following areas:
⛔Mutual legal assistance in criminal matters;
⛔Memorandum of understanding on health matters;
⛔Co-operation in media, information and publicity;
⛔Provision of sustainable, affordable and functional low-cost housing;
⛔Co-operation in technical, vocational education and training; and
⛔ Employment and labour
However, it is the mammoth railway project – which is expected to span more than 2 000 kilometres from Gaborone (Botswana), Bulawayo (Zimbabwe) and Techobanine (Mozambique) – that represents a major milestone in the new political administration’s renewed bid to re-engage with the world.
Thawing relations between Harare and Gaborone in the Second Republic has made it possible to revive the key regional infrastructure project that was initially agreed by the three countries in 2016.
However, it is believed that the diplomatic tiff between Zimbabwe and Botswana slowed down the implementation of the project.
But the new leadership in the two countries is not only mending bridges but deepening relations as well.
Projects that were initially shelved are now being pursued with added impetus.
Speaking after the signing ceremony on Thursday, President Mnangagwa emphasised the need to quicken the implementation agreed projects.
“We must apply greater determination towards the full implementation of these agreements for the benefit of our two countries and peoples.
“There is no doubt that in working together and consistently, we can achieve much more . . .” he said.
Similarly, President Masisi indicated that the mulled mega rail project “will result in the creation of an international trade route linking Botswana, Zimbabwe and Mozambique to the eastern markets”.
President Mnangagwa has been pushing for projects that are designed to progressively transform Zimbabwe from a landlocked to a land-linked country.
Last year, he officially opened the country’s dry port facility in Walvis Bay, Namibia, which is expected to provide a strategic and cheaper gateway to the Atlantic Ocean for local manufactures and international businesses.
A dry port is usually an inland inter-modal terminal directly connected by road or rail to a seaport and operating as a centre for the transshipment of sea cargo to inland destinations.
The dry port was built on 19 000 square metres of land that was donated by Namibia to Zimbabwe to facilitate the latter’s access to the sea.
In 2018, President Mnangagwa also successfully negotiated for the inclusion of Zimbabwe in the Kazungula Bridge project, which is also expected to boost regional trade.
Trade between Sadc countries, at 10 percent, is considered to be pitiably low compared to South-East Asian Nations at 24 percent and the European Union (40 percent).
Put simply, it means 90 percent of Sadc trade is with other regions.
Overall, not only is Government’s engagement and re-engagement drive gradually re-integrating the country into the global family of nations, but it is also serving the country’s medium and long-term strategic objectives of growing the economy and boosting international trade.