African leaders were meeting yesterday to try to push ahead with a plan to invest US$7 billion in transport links between southern and central Africa.
Zambian President Rupiah Banda, Rwandan President Paul Kagame, Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki and Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni were due to meet in Lusaka yesterday to lure funding for the North-South Corridor project aimed at boosting trade flows and improving economic growth. WTO Secretary -General Pascal Lamy was also due to attend the talks, the meeting’s agenda showed.
“The program is ready,” John Donovan, program manager of the South African-based Regional Trade Facilitation Program, said in an interview in Lusaka on Sunday. “Work can start now if the funding is available.”
Southern Africa needs US$800 million for the rehabilitation of rail-wagons, locomotives and sections of railway in Tanzania, Zambia, Botswana and Zimbabwe, according to the North-South Corridor, while more than US$450 million is needed to upgrade the main Dar es Salaam port in Tanzania. The project intends to revamp 8,646km of highway, halve waiting times at border posts and cut the cost of moving goods by US$50 million a year.
The corridor project, a pilot under the Aid for Trade program, will prioritize routes from the Dar es Salaam port with the Copperbelt in Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo; and routes from the Copperbelt to South Africa’s ports, its Web site said.
The project will seek aid, loans or investment and encourage the full or partial sale of state-owned companies to private investors, Donovan said. It will start an investment fund for regional infrastructure, work to harmonize customs procedures between countries and aim to slash the length of time it takes to cross borders at a cost of US$20.4 million over the next five years, he said.