Four countries, one people, one development corridor: Mtwara

SANF 05 no 04
A new development corridor holds the promise of development and prosperity for a hitherto underdeveloped region in the heart of the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

The leaders of four SADC member states met in the last days of 2004 to sign a legal framework that should make the Mtwara Development Corridor a reality and improve the lives of the people who live in the northern provinces of Malawi and Mozambique, the northern and eastern provinces of Zambia, and the southern regions of Tanzania.

President Benjamin Mkapa of Tanzania said it was a matter of “great personal satisfaction and pleasure” to have a legal document that “formally binds our countries and illustrates to our people and our external development partners our firm commitment to move from intent to action.”

The purpose of the corridor is to promote trade and investment in the four countries by improving and integrating transportation and other infrastructure.

“Seven years ago, conscious of the poverty prevalent in the regions of our countries that bestride the Mtwara Corridor area,” Mkapa said, “and being aware of the enormous potential for development that resources along the corridor provide, we decided to work together to open up and develop the corridor as a regional project.

“We are also conscious of the fact that our people along this corridor, in all the four countries, are in reality one people, an African people, separated only by colonial borders that we inherited.

“This corridor must be the beginning of joint efforts to bring them even closer as people, and as partners in development.” He cautioned that, “the political will we have displayed today now has to translate in a measurable and timed implementation process.”

The inaugural summit and launch of the Mtwara Development Corridor was hosted by President Bingu wa Mutharika in Lilongwe, Malawi, and attended, in addition to Mkapa, by the Presidents of Zambia and Mozambique, Levy Mwanawasa and Joaquim Chissano.

Mkapa said the four leaders were committing themselves unreservedly to work together as governments, “in partnership with bilateral and multilateral donors and the private sector to unlock the development potential of this corridor through the building or improvement of infrastructure, namely roads, bridges, ports, railway lines, telecommunications, and airports.

“We are also committing ourselves to a public-private partnership to exploit the abundant natural resources along the corridor, such as minerals, energy, agriculture, forestry, fisheries and tourism. We are confident that the economic linkages that will emanate from all these activities will open many opportunities for self-development for our people.

He urged support for “this regional endeavour for poverty reduction and growth” that will help to fast track regional integration, saying there are two key issues to be urgently addressed in the four countries. These are to ensure that formalized trade between and among the countries is given priority; and to ensure the identification by each country of anchor projects within its zone.

“These projects should have a direct regional connectivity, benefiting more than one country; and have direct and speedy economic impact on the incomes and welfare of the people residing in the areas.”

President Mwanawasa said the initiative was in line with SADC’s policy of promoting cross-border trade through the integration of transport networks, and would benefit several provinces of Zambia by promoting the development of local agriculture, fishery, tourism and mining sectors.

He said that, as a landlocked country, Zambia must pursue a policy of regional cooperation as the only way to maximize the use of transport infrastructure and institutional capacities.

The host, President Mutharika of Malawi, stressed that the success of the corridor will depend on strong private sector confidence and participation.

Development projects under the Mtwara corridor initiative include the Unity Bridge to be built across the Ruvuma river between Mozambique and Tanzania, which Mkapa called “a historical task as well as a development imperative.”

Another project is the Mbamba Bay road from Lake Malawi/Nyasa to Mtwara that would efficiently connect Malawi, Tanzania and northern Mozambique; and an oil pipeline on the same route.

Other projects include the exploitation of the huge Mchuchuma coal reserves for power generation that could supplement energy supplies for Malawi and Mozambique; a heavy capacity ferry linking Nkhata Bay in Malawi with Mbamba Bay across the lake in Tanzania; interconnection of the power grids of Zambia, Malawi and Tanzania, and, Mtwara port itself to be expanded and operations improved.

The corridor has unique potential for tourism, with its Indian Ocean beaches, clear waters and marine parks; the vast dinosaur beds at Tendaguru, near Mtwara; the Kitulo plateau, known as the “Serengeti of flowers”; and Lake Malawi/Nyasa. There is a natural elephant corridor between northern Mozambique and the Selous Game Reserve in Tanzania, the largest game reserve in the world.

There is also potential for historical tourism of a more current nature at Nachingwea, the training camp for nationalist freedom fighters who brought independence to Mozambique and Zimbabwe.

The development of infrastructure such as that envisaged in the Mtwara Development Corridor, is top priority for the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), the development blueprint of the African Union. (SARDC)