Political differences between Burundi and Rwanda stifle Zambian trade

By Jeff Kapembwa

LUSAKA – The increasing rift between Burundi and Rwanda is affecting Zambian exporters from having an easy passage to other East African countries and President Edgar Lungu has been asked to pacify over the matter.

Zambia and Tanzania host Lake Tanganyika, the key route to the Indian Ocean and the main channel for transportation of various goods and services including cement, mealie meal, sugar and other assorted goods from Zambia to other African states and Europe.

However, transportation of various goods destined for East African countries passing through Rwanda and Burundi is affecting trade and flow of goods and services.

Mpulungu Harbor Corporation Manager Davies Kaluba has appealed to President Lungu to engage his counterparts in Rwanda and Burundi ensure trades are not disrupted.

Kaluba said Zambia is having challenges to export products because the leaders ‘are not at peace with each other’.

The soured relationship by the two leaders has affected Zambian exports as they are being slowed down to reach other east African countries where they are destined for export, Kaluba is cited as having told President Lungu when he visited the Mpulungu Harbour last week during his visit to northern Zambia along the border with                                         Tanzania.

There is a huge demand for cement and sugar in East Africa which Zambia can satisfy but the lack of a vessel is limiting the movements on Lake Tanganyia, hence the need to source its own to meet the demand for the service, Kaluba said.

Lake Tanganyika, the world’s second largest lake by volume straddles four countries – Tanzania, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Burundi, and Zambia, with Tanzania (46 percent) and DRC (40 percent) possessing the majority of the lake.

Meanwhile, Zambia has acquired a K270 million (US$270,000) loan facilitate to upgrade the Mpulungu Harbour to international measure.

Zambia’s Minister of Presidential Affairs Freedom Sikazwe told President Lungu during his tour of the facility that the loan has been sourced to enable Zambia meet the increasing demand for cargo handling on goods and services destined for either Africa or European countries including copper exports.

Mpulungu port is situated at the southern tip of Lake Tanganyika, between mountains, along the shores. It provides the only gateway by ferry to the neighboring countries. Zambian exports of Sugar and Cement use the port for a great deal.

Zambia lacks its own vessel to haul goods destined for export and is losing a lot of revenue and this is impacting heavily on its operations and ultimately affecting Zambia’s potential to export products as expected.

The Steam Ship Liemba, which is operated by Tanzania’s Marine Services Company Limited  arrives every Friday at the Mpulungu port, ferrying various goods and traders from several parts of Africa, including Bujumbura in Burundi and Kigoma in Tanzania to sell their merchandise in  Zambia.

On its outward journey, it takes goods from Zambia to markets further north. The ferry is capable of carrying up to 500 passengers together with their cargo. Originally, the ferry was a cargo vessel Graf von Goetzen belonging to the Germans during the First World War.

April 2017
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