Mozambique still has reservations on the use of the Shire-Zambezi Waterway as an alternative means of transport for cargo and has instead suggested that Malawi and Zambia explore other means.
President Felipe Nyusi of Mozambique said in Lilongwe on Monday that the Shire-Zambezi Waterway was the “ambition” of Malawi and Zambia in a bid to reduce costs of transportation of goods, but his government was still open to discussing other alternative means of transport.
Landlocked Malawi and Zambia heavily rely on the Nacala Port by rail and Beira Port by road which have proven too expensive, making exports and imports uncompetitive and stifling economic growth, especially for Malawi. Zambia also uses Dar es Salaam in Tanzania railway.
Malawi and Zambia have argued that the waterway would stimulate economic activities in the three countries, including Mozambique, by creating employment through trade and tourism development apart from providing permanent employment on the water, rail and road route.
However, Nyusi seemed to doubt the feasibility of the Nsanje World Inland Port, one of the colour dreams of former president the late Bingu wa Mutharika, and navigation on the Shire River.
He said: “We have taken stock of what we have done so far and discussed other alternatives to reduce costs of transportation for the two countries within the framework of the memorandum of understanding [MoU]. In the meantime, we will be working hard to make sure Nsanje port is feasible.”
On his part, Mutharika said his government was exploring inter-model transport network by combining road, rail and water to complement each other.
“We depend mostly on Beira and Nacala ports and we are currently exploring the reviving of the Sena corridor which was very active before the war in Mozambique and now all the infrastructure is damaged,” Mutharika said.
Zambian President Edgar Lungu also said enhancing economic and development cooperation between the three countries was important and one was the development and easy access to the Nacala Port.
Nyusi’s remarks are not a surprise to the governments of Malawi and Zambia as the then Minister of Transport Carlos Mesquita has previously said the government was working to develop and improve existing infrastructure to reduce the distance between landlocked countries like Malawi and Zambia to the Indian Ocean but the Shire-Zambezi Waterway was not one of the infrastructures.
A feasibility study report which was ready in September 2015 returned to the consultant, Hydroplan GmbH, to add data relating to cost-benefits for the governments of Mozambique and Zambia.