KwaZulu-Natal exporters should be seeking opportunities to develop ancillary roads in Mozambique as the province stands to benefit from a tourism boom with the completion of the catalytic $725 million (R10bn) Maputo-Ponta do Ouro road that will more than halve driving time between Maputo and Kosi Bay.
Paul Runge, director of projects and development finance at Africa House, which undertakes research focused on the African trade, project and investment environment, said completion of the road in August next year was expected to lead to a stream of international tourists visiting the province.
The road will cut the journey from Maputo to Kosi Bay from six hours on demanding sandy roads, currently accessible only by 4x4 vehicles, to a 90-minute drive.
Runge was addressing business and diplomatic delegates from across the continent at Trade and Investment KZN’s Export Summit in Durban last week.
The new 120km road will run from Maputo over the largest suspension bridge in Africa, which will span 680m and stand 60m above sea level across the Bay of Maputo, linking the capital to Catembe and to adjoining roads to the southern border town of Ponto de Ouro.
The China Road and Bridge Corporation has been contracted to build the road and suspension bridge, which is expected to be completed in January. German consultancy firm Gauff Engineering is undertaking design evaluation, construction supervision and quality control.
“The Catembe bridge is about 82% completed and it is going to land in Catembe and link on to a road which will lead all the way to the border post at Kosi Bay. It’s a strategic area and environmentally very sensitive, so there will be opportunities for people doing environmental work,” he said.
“We are particularly interested in the rib (ancillary) roads that will need to be built. There are a lot of roleplayers involved in this project and what would make sense is for Trade and Investment KZN and Swaziland to get people together to discuss how all three of us can benefit as we did with the Maputo Corridor,” Runge said.
Runge said Manguzi stood to benefit from improved road access to the region, which could see it taking on the same growth trajectory as Nelspruit in Mpumalanga, which is a source of grocery and goods supplies for Mozambicans and a stop-over for tourists on their way to the country. He said some researchers had estimated that the town’s current population of 20 000 could grow to as much as 400 000.
“Most people see this project in the context of tourism – it fits hand in glove here.
“It will facilitate the move of people between Northern KZN and the south of Mozambique.
“There are already Mozambican commercial property developers who are advertising all along the route. There is going to be development and it should be done with strong environmental considerations,” he said.
“There will be a big spurt of tourism because everyone in Mozambique will quickly be able to drive into KZN,” Runge said.
Roelof van Tonder, who is responsible for business development at Africa House, said provincial government needed to push for the currently inadequate border post to be upgraded and for the development of local tourism infrastructure.
“We interviewed tourism operators and they told us that at Christmas time you have a massive influx of people from Maputo into this region and with the road being built it is going to triple.
“Road infrastructure, water and sanitation will have to be upgraded and designed to cope with big demand. If we sleep on this opportunity for much longer the rest of the world will jump in there and exporters from KZN could potentially lose out,” Van Tonder said.
The Maputo Bridge and Link Roads project is funded by the Export-Import Bank of China and the Mozambique government.