By: Millicent Kgeledi
6 March – Journey to Ndola…
A 5-hour journey from Zambia’s Capital, Lusaka to Ndola awaits us this morning...
Zambia’s weather as usual, is unpredictable but the team’s in a jovial mood, I suppose everyone’s looking forward to the road trip to Kasumbalesa, one of the busiest Border Posts in Africa. Kasumbalesa is a border post where five major ports dovetail- the port of Durban, Dar es Salaam, Beira and Walvis Bay from SADC and the port of Mombasa from East Africa.
On the team we have colleagues from the African Union Development Agency-NEPAD, COMESA, CCTTFA representatives from the Governments of Botswana, DRC, South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe.
Kasumbalesa is a One Stop Border Post (OSBP) between Zambia and DRC and is one of the busiest borders with commercial vehicles cleared at the border travelling from and destined to South Africa, Tanzania, Namibia, Mozambique and other SADC countries. Due to high volumes of traffic, in 2011 major renovations were undertaken to improve the border infrastructure to enhance traffic flow and movements of people.
“What’s an OSBP?” I ask my colleague Kisa Nkhoma on our way to Ndola.
Kisa is tasked with the role of managing the MoveAfrica Initiative. Under this initiative, the Traffic Light System project has been set up to assess the performance of cross-border logistics. It is for this reason that we are undertaking this mission to evaluate the performance of the Kasumbalesa border post, identify bottle necks and recommend actions to be undertaken.
“Milli, the OSBP concept refers to the legal and institutional framework, facilities, and associated procedures that enable goods, people, and vehicles to stop in a single facility in which they undergo necessary controls. This is aligned to regional and national protocols and Trade Facilitation Agreements.. In basic terms, the OSBP system aims to ensure that the movement of goods, people and services are facilitated without hindrance, to exit one state and enter an adjoining state,”she says.
I internalize this information and reflect on what we will be witnessing tomorrow at the Border Post.
The road is long, on our way, we stop at “Fig Tree”, a small convenience store which seems to be an ideal spot for travelers from Lusaka to Ndola to catch some refreshments and a bit of rest. I marvel at the business acumen of the owners of this place, a reminder that with the proper support and Infrastructure, Africa can run successful businesses. This means that our Border Posts also need to be intact to ensure that it does not hinder trade and progress in the Continent.
That night, I sleep with the anticipation of seeing this much talked about border and its prospects,…
Day 2: Africa’s rains welcome us to Kasumbalesa
It’s been a long morning. We departed our various hotels very early in the morning to avoid the peak hour traffic. But 4 hours later, we are still on the road.
Kasumbalesa border is about 200 kilometers from Ndola. The road is in good condition so one can proudly say that despite the pessimism that Africa is not developing at a rapid pace, we are investing in the development of roads.
‘Milli, you need to see Kasumbalesa Border Post, it’s busy! The number of trucks going into and out of DRC from that border are just astronomical! It’s one of the busiest borders because of its strategic position”says Kisa casually while we eagerly sit in the bus, anticipating our arrival. Frankly, I am exhausted, so I do not fully internalize what she tells me. Until we arrive at the Border Post…
I must say, her words fell short of the reality at Kasumbalesa Border Post! The first image that hit me when we finally get to the border post is that of massive trucks waiting in long queues, kilometers to be precise!! These trucks are carrying every kind of product that one can imagine.
And then there are the informal traders!!! I have never seen so much informal trade in a short space of time!! All kinds of goods are being sold at this border. In less than three hours, a 30ton truck can be offloaded and trans-shipped into oxcarts and bicycles. The goods range from electronic appliances, agricultural produce, hazardous goods, heavy mining machinery and parts, fuel and many other consumables. I start thinking of the challenges that these traders might face at this border in the process of moving their goods and services.
Informal trade in Africa remains a key driver of countries’ economies, but this form of trade is often overlooked. It is in this regard that the Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA) continues to advocate through its MoveAfrica initiative for the free movement of people to facilitate trade and highlights the importance of strong political commitment for corridor development and security.
When we finally arrive at the Border Post, we meet with the Border Officials who brief us on some of the challenges which create delayed movement between DRC and Zambia. One of the challenges is the road condition from Chililapombwe – the border town to the Border Post (20 kms) and from Kasumbalesa to Whisky (15km) which requires immediate attention. Other challenges include the limited pre- clearance of goods.
“Perhaps one of the solutions would be the opening up of other borders posts to help ease the burden off this Border Post” says one of the delegates during the meeting.
The outcomes of this meeting will help the team to evaluate the current performance of the Border Post against the standards set up in the Traffic Light System. The challenges will be analysed and proposals made on areas of intervention.
As we leave the Border Post, I can’t help but think that perhaps one of the solutions lies in a harmonized approach in which both countries, Zambia and DRC work jointly in coming up with concrete solutions to address these challenges. History has taught us that an integrated approach works better than individual country approaches. Both countries, with support from the Regional Economic Communities (COMESA and SADC) need to agree on short term solutions such as opening the border post for 24 hours on both sides.
We drive back to Ndola; another long journey awaits us tomorrow morning. We are going back to Lusaka to prepare for our next stop, Rusumu Border Post in Rwanda.
Note for Editors
The Traffic Light System (TLS) initiative led by the African Union Development Agency-NEPAD assesses the performance of cross-border logistics. It assesss the performance of cross-border logistics and the bottlenecks at each OSBP. The pilot survey, focused on selected OSBPs, and assesses:
- logistics and traffic flow, as well as volumes on key corridors,
- policy and regulations concerning OSBPs,
- existing procedures at each OSBP, and
- current operational flow at each OSBP.