8 Apr 2009

Lusaka deal to boost landlocked Africa

Zambia flagWhy is Africa poor? Here’s one reason – to ship copper from Zambia to a port in South Africa (the nearest) takes three weeks and costs $6,000 per week. The same journey in Europe takes 48 hours and costs a fraction of that.

Bureaucratic border crossing, rotten and rotting railways, disintegrating roads… They all speak to every negative force that could possibly be brought to bear on a nation’s trade.

This video by the Department for International Development

Hence the launch this week of a massive infrastructure project that will bring relief to central and southern African landlocked countries: Zambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Congo, Rwanda and more.

Meeting in Lusaka, Zambia, three presidents and key partners and donors signed off on a deal to rebuild and integrate roads and rail connections to speed up freight to the sea. And crucially, a new deal has won agreement to strip border controls to one shared border post, rendering a crossing that normally takes two days down to two hours.

It was my job to moderate this conference on behalf of DFID, one of four agencies that have summoned a total of $1.2bn to get it going. I learned much from the experience and will share it with you anon.

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5 reader comments

  1. Anita Neville says:

    With all the focus on poverty relief, dealing with Aids, corruption and scandal in Africa it is all too easy to forget that infrastructure – good roads, rail systems etc – that can move people and resources, including food and medicine, are essential if a country is to be lifted out of poverty

  2. Adil Hasan says:

    I don’t know much about Africa (in fact I know nothing about everything). Would such pan-African enterprises go through the African Union entity since it crosses borders? Perhaps centralising funding and effort would help to make sure such common goals like better infrastructure could be achieved more efficiently.

    Who knows, maybe they would make a better go of it than the EU which for some is a bit of a gravy-train.

  3. Richard says:

    Jon
    This sounds like good news

    I have been watching and moved by the sad news from Italy. It is truly heart rending.

    It suddenly struck me that while we are touched by situations like that, we don’t react in the same way to the fact that far more children die unnecessarily in Africa every day.

    Perhaps Channel-4 could run a dramatic story every night for a week on the number of children that had died that day, just to bring home the enormity of the tragedy.

    The other thing that struck me recently is that we are spending billions exploring the far reaches of our galaxy to see if there is any sign of water. That money spent on the infrastructure of Africa, would help bring prosperity and water to those who don’t have it right here, on our planet.

    Space exploration is interesting and exciting but it can’t be more important than saving lives on earth.

  4. Adil Hasan says:

    The problem is aid is syphoned off. The aid that’s given to many African countries tends to be creamed off or completely diverted to prop-up dysfunctional regimes. As it passes through the hands of governments (or, even if it doesn’t it gets heavily ‘taxed’).

    Africa is not poor. It has smart intelligent people and a lot of resources.

    What it needs is for foreign companies to stop meddling in African affairs encouraging corrupt regimes that protect their interests. They need to think of the long-term.

    African countries themselves should be required to show they are putting in credible plans to deal with whatever crisis they face. And (a) to show where the aid is needed (b) to show where the aid has been spent.
    I think that the DID could work provided it’s (a) not given all in one go (b) there is accountability on what has been spent.

    Africa is rich, just like Russia. But, just like Russia there are a small number of fantastically rich people that are cornering a majority of the wealth away from the majority of incredibly poor people.

    If the African Union can be made to work as a credible entity that would be a good step in Africa monitoring itself. Any funds for development could be channeled through that organisation with checks and balances.

    Also, in the current economic (read eek-a-nomic) crisis African debt to the world bank needs to be restructured.

    Well that’s what I think.

  5. BRUCE CROFTS says:

    All the Zambian copper mines and smelters are within 100 miles of KAPIRI IMPOSHI ZAMBIA,
    the terminal of the TANZAM railway which was built by the Chinese in the early 70s.

    It runs all the way to the docks at DAR ES SALAM. Why would you want to transport copper bars all the way to DURBAN R.S.A. ?

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