Development corridors: Oases of hope for SADC
In a landlocked country like Zimbabwe, development corridors play a major role in tapping investment and stimulating economic growth as well as do away with political barriers imposed by colonial powers meant to divide Africa in order to plunder her riches.
Development corridors are defined more by the spirit of cooperation generated by a series of geographical and socio-economic synergies, than by the political administrative boundaries and barriers.
Zimbabwe has several such development corridors that could bring in vast investment opportunities if properly coordinated.
For many years, development corridors that have linked Southern African countries to their neighbours and to vital areas such as the sea routes or ports have been largely rail based.
Road networks are now taking over and the areas along the corridors are set to grow economically thereby creating employment opportunities.
The corridors have the potential to attract big investment not only for Zimbabwe but the region as a whole.
The corridors have the potential to strengthen Zimbabwe’s existing trade and investment relations with neighbours such as South Africa, Mozambique, Zambia, Namibia and Angola to name a few. A number of economic sectors stand to benefit from the development corridors including agriculture, mining production, inter-exchange of commodities and tourism as the backbone of economic growth for most of the Southern African countries.
Of late focus has been on the Trans-Limpopo Spatial Development Initiative, a development corridor that stretches from Victoria Falls to Polokwane in South Africa, via Bulawayo, Gwanda, Beitbridge and Messina.
The Spatial Development Initiative corridors’ methodology was developed in South Africa in 1996 as an integrated planning tool aimed at promoting investment in regions of the country that were underdeveloped but had potential for growth through the utilisation of development corridors within the Southern African region.
Sometime in 2001, the Trans-Limpopo Spatial Development Initiative was formed when South Africa’s Limpopo Province and Zimbabwe’s Matabeleland North and South provinces signed a bilateral economic development pact.
Some of the stakeholders in the Trans-Limpopo Spatial Development Initiative in Zimbabwe include the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority, Bulawayo City Council, Gwanda Town Council and the Zimbabwe Investment Authority.
A Spatial Development Initiative (SDI) work programme offers short, sharp catalytic interventions to facilitate investment-led growth in project areas designed by participating governments. The (SDI) methodology is acclaimed in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) as a simple and effective process to unlock the rich resource base of the region by facilitating investment-led growth and, in the longer term, contributing to the establishment of integrated development within the region.
Areas that would benefit from the corridors include Trans-frontier parks, the Great Limpopo, Okavango Upper Zambezi International Tourism Initiative (OUZITI) as well as Tourism Initiative of the Northern Province of South Africa.
A number of projects in the fields of infrastructure, agriculture, mining, energy development and tourism have been identified within the area of the Trans-Limpopo corridor.
Once the corridor is fully operational the benefits that would accrue include a one stop border post in Beitbridge, food processing industries, coal methane gas mining in Lupane, upgrading of the Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo and Victoria Falls international airports as well as the Matabeleland Zambezi Water Project among others.
Zimbabwe’s Environment, Water and Climate Change Minister Saviour Kasukuwere, said his ministry was committed to the completion of the Matabeleland Zambezi Water Project which he said was the ultimate solution to water problems in the country’s southern region and on completion would promote investment agro-business industries for the surrounding communities.
He said the first phase of the water project, the construction of the Gwayi-Shangani Dam would be complete by 2016, highlighting that the completion of the dam would bring a number of spill-off economic benefits worth over $1 billion to the Matabeleland region’s populace.
The dam, after construction will be one of the largest inland dams in Zimbabwe. Kasukuwere said the project had a potential to create a green belt along the 400km water pipeline from Gwayi-Shangani Dam to Bulawayo. He said agro-based companies were also expected to set up industries along the corridor.
“We are looking at setting up agro-based industries along the corridor where people could be settled. They would then have pieces of land where they can cultivate crops under irrigation and cattle rearing as one of the region’s economic backbone. Projects such as timber processing could be started in Lupane once water is made available,” he said.
The Limpopo line is another development spatial initiative which connects Zimbabwe to Mozambique as a development project between the two countries that ensures them access to the sea. The line runs between South Mozambique to the port of Maputo.
Having been started in the late 1980s, rehabilitation of the Limpopo line by the National Railways of Zimbabwe was completed in 1991.
At its peak, the Limpopo line handled about 2.1 million tonnes of transit freight and provided Zimbabwe with a shorter route to the sea.
The Beira corridor is yet another Spatial Development Initiative that was introduced in the 1980s.
It is a strategic 300km road, rail and oil pipeline route connecting Zimbabwe to the port in Mozambique.
Zimbabwe in conjunction with Mozambique is at present working to promote the Beira Corridor in order to attract investment into the corridor. For instance, an infrastructure development conference organised by the Southern African Development Community for investment promotion in cross-border infrastructure development projects was held in Maputo, Mozambique in June last year.
At the meeting it was disclosed that under the Regional Infrastructure Development Master Plan (RIDMP), SADC’s infrastructure development 15-year blue print, Zimbabwe is set to benefit from the multi-billion investment scheme in rehabilitation of cross-border development projects.
This will guide the implementation of cross-border infrastructure development including corridors and border posts between 2013 and 2027 and would see investment in vital areas along the regional corridors grow economically thereby accelerate regional trade and investment.
One of the objectives of the SDI programme is to minimise congestion at the country’s borders.
In line with this, Zimbabwe’s Transport and Infrastructural Development Minister Obert Mpofu said plans are underway to open more border posts in the country which would assist in decongesting the current ones.
The co-chairperson of Trans-Limpopo Spatial Development, Obert Sibanda said the concept of developing economic corridors needs to be encouraged. He said such development initiatives have to be encouraged as they bring a lot of benefits to the business community and to the people within the locality in which they are located.
”The corridors improve the trade and cross border investment. It will also promote regional economic integration in sharing resources in the region,” said Sibanda.
With the present setback in-flows of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and much greater competition for investment, it is essential that negative perceptions about the region are dealt with by addressing some of the issues hindering investment by promoting the region’s Preferential Trade Area’s aims and objectives.
These barriers range from trade barriers to restrictions on hiring skilled expatriates, restrictive labour laws, incentive regimes, taxation policies and either a lack of, or poor infrastructure.
Various SDI's have been initiated at regional level among them, the MDC-SA, Swaziland and Mozambique, Limpopo Valley SDI-SA and Mozambique, Beira Development Corridor-SA, Mozambique and Zimbabwe, Zambezi Valley SDI-SA and Mozambique, Nacala Development Corridor-SA, Mozambique, Malawi and Zambia), Walvis Bay Development Corridor-SA and Namibia), Gariep SDI-SA's Northern Cape Province and Namibia), Mtwara Development Corridor-SA, Tanzania, Mozambique and Malawi),Central Development Corridor (-SA, Tanzania and Rwanda), Lebombo Investment Initiative-SA, Swaziland and Mozambique).