Zambia’s efforts to generate revenue intended to sustain its infrastructure and bolster economic growth other than rely on the income from mines, is paying dividends with Government to date, raising US$30 million in toll gate charges.
Since the late 1990s Zambia has attracted over US$8 billion in direct foreign investment in the mines through various foreign owned mines, including First Quantum Minerals Limited acquiring units in various parts of the country.
This has in turn forced the Government to repair the road network because of the wear and tear created by trucks laden either with mineral concentrates or equipment being delivered to various units either existing or to new projects for installation.
The country had in November last year introduced a road toll fee to raise revenue to be reinvested into the road network as the country still grapples to revive the railway network-chiefly between Copperbelt and southern provinces to reduce the pressure on roads.
This was addition to recapitalizing the financially hit Tanzania Zambia Railway Authority-or TAZARA to link Zambia from Kapiri Mposhi in central Province to Dar-es Salaam in neighboring Tanzania-all intended to ease pressure on the roads as mining takes its toll.
As envisaged, Transport, Works, Supply and Communications Minister, Yamfwa Mukanga says US$30 million has since been generated in the past six months after the road toll fees were introduced in Zambia for all road users on selected points of some roads.
The money was raised through a pilot project involving seven toll gates that have been erected on weigh-bridges. Only trucks passing through the seven weigh-bridges are currently being levied, Mukanga said.
Speaking when he made a presentation at the 2014 Africa Ports and Harbors Show at Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg, South Africa recently, Mukanga stated that Government has now seen great potential for raising more financing with which to carry out more sustainable maintenance of existing roads as well as those that are being constructed.
“We will now roll-out this to other roads and even put up actual toll-gates instead of using weigh bridges to collect these toll fees. We can then also capture smaller vehicles under this system,” he said in a statement from the Zambian embassy in South Africa.
The show is a platform on which countries speak about their investment potential to prospective investors. During the meeting, Mukanga said Government was targeting to divert transportation of all heavy cargo from the road onto the railway network by 2016.
It was in this vain that Government repossessed Zambia Railways from the concessionaire, Railway Systems of Zambia, because it wanted to prevent further damage to the road network as well as improve the railway system which had suffered deterioration due to lack of re-investment.
The railway network in Zambia had deteriorated to levels where trains could not move at more than 20 kilometres per hour noting that:
“With such low levels of speed, transit time obviously becomes longer and in the process the cost of doing business becomes unbearable.”
Zambia was committed to regional growth and economic integration through an efficient, cost effective and fully integrated transport infrastructure that adequately meets the needs of the region. The road projects such as the Link Zambia 8000 as well as the railway lines being constructed were part of the vision of linking Zambia to other countries.
Mukanga added that five railway projects meant to connect major transport corridors were currently being developed as part of Zambia`s efforts to link the region, citing the Chingola-Solwezi- Jimbe railway line, the Nseluka-Mpulungu line, the Chipata-Tazara Mpika, the Kafue Lions’ Den and the Livingstone-Katima Mulilo railway project, all in various parts of the countryside.
Government has invested over US$50 million in maritime transportation development but that this fell below the required levels of investment to make the sector efficient. He urged investors to look at this as an opportunity and explore it further.
Potential investors could also take advantage of the current lack of investment in Dry Ports, the lack of bigger passenger and cargo vessels on lakes, and lack of investment in maritime infrastructure and turn them into opportunities.
Those planning to invest in Zambia should not hesitate as the country was a stable and mature democracy which has managed to change five Heads of State and three different political parties in a peaceful manner, Mukanga added.