Mozambique says it has reservations on the use of the Shire-Zambezi Waterway and has since set conditions to be met by the consultant contracted to submit a report on its viability.
However, Malawi, which mooted the idea during the rule of former president Bingu wa Mutharika, yesterday, argued that the waterway would bring benefits to the three governments of Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia.
The sentiments were expressed yesterday in Lilongwe during the sixth Joint Consultative Committee of Ministers on the feasibility study of navigability of Shire-Zambezi Waterway, which has brought together ministers of transport from the three countries
But the feasibility study report, which was ready on September 3 this year, has since been returned to the consultant, Hydroplan GmbH, to add data relating to cost-benefits for the governments of Mozambique and Zambia for discussion at the next ministers meeting in November in Zambia.
Speaking at the opening of the meeting yesterday, Mozambique Minister of Transport Carlos Mesquita said viability of the waterway could only be assessed if the consultant determines the behaviour of water levels in the two rivers, the cost of maintenance of the waterway and the rights of fishing families along the rivers.
The minister also implied that Mozambique did not need the waterway because Maputo was working to develop and improve existing infrastructure to reduce the distance between landlocked countries, such as Malawi and Zambia to the Indian Ocean.
But Mesquita said the Shire-Zambezi Waterway was not one of the projects at the moment.
Minister of Transport and Public Works Francis Kasaila made a fresh appeal that Malawi’s reliance on the Mozambican ports of Beira by road and Nacala by rail have proven too expensive, making exports uncompetitive and stifling the country’s growth.
“Malawi being a fragile economy has not relented in its desire to reduce transport costs further; hence, the idea to reopen the Shire-Zambezi Waterway,” he said.
In his brief remarks, Zambia’s Deputy Minister of Transport Mutaba Mwale said the country remained committed to the ideals of regional integration.
The African Development Bank (AfDB) has funded the feasibility study which started in 2012 and stalled along the way while the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) secretariat has been coordinating the project.
Through the Shire-Zambezi Waterway, Malawi hopes to use the port of Chinde, about 240 kilometres away and cut costs of imports and exports.