A road and rail bridge linking Botswana and Zambia was inaugurated on Monday, marking the completion of a multi-million-dollar project aimed at easing congestion at border crossings throughout the southern African region.
The curved Kazungula bridge, which stretches for 923 metres (some 3,000 feet) over the Zambezi River, provides a long-needed alternative route for hauliers.
“This will lower the cost of doing business,” Zambia’s President Edgar Lungu said at the ribbon-cutting ceremony, anticipating “an increase in trade and competitiveness, job creation, tourism and other positive ripple effects”.
Construction of the $259 million (213 million euro) project began in December 2014, co-funded by the African Development Bank (AfDB), the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), regional governments and other grants.
Namibia and Zimbabwe joined the consortium in 2018.
The bridge will facilitate intra-regional freight transport by allowing trucks to bypass the notorious Beitbridge border post between Zimbabwe and South Africa, which is perennially congested, with vehicles spending hours and sometimes days queueing to cross.
At Monday’s ceremony, Botswana’s President Mokgweetsi Masisi said the bridge would “open avenues for improved trade”.
And Zimbabwe’s leader Emmerson Mnangagwa hailed what he called a “milestone achievement” for the region.
The current leader of the African Union and president of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Felix Tshisekedi, also attended the event.