Zimbabwe should set up strategic dry-ports with direct links to the seas to facilitate smooth transportation and clearance of goods ahead of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AFCFTA), trade experts suggest.
Among notable challenges Africa’s landlocked countries face with the coming in of the free trade area will be how they can be linked to the ports as efficient as possible to enhance trade linkages through the seas.
Speaking at the just ended National Forum on African Continental Free Trade Area held in Harare this week, Shipping and Forwarding Association CEO, Joseph Musariri said landlocked countries should transform into land-linked countries to reap fruits of the AFCFTA.
“I think if we are going to make the CFTA effective we must make sure it is as attractive as much as possible so that members must trade among themselves,”
“We have a lot of land locked countries in Africa, which makes trade a bit challenging but we need to transform the land locked countries into land-linked countries because the use of dry ports should be important if we move goods by sea for example from Southern Africa to North Africa, we need as much as possible to bring the landlocked countries closer to the sea through the use of dry ports so that when the goods get to the seaports they are quickly transported inland and the clearing of the goods is done inland rather than at the seaports,” said Musariri.
A dry port (sometimes inland) is an inland intermodal terminal directly connected by road or rail to a seaport and operating as a center for the transshipment of sea cargo to inland destinations.
Zimbabwe already has the Mutare Dry port that serves as the gateway to the Mozambican shores and has just completed the construction of a US$ 3.5 million dry port facility at Walvis Bay in Namibia to be launched by President Emmerson Mnangagwa before year-end.
However, analysts are skeptical of the state of roads and rail infrastructure linking the dry ports to the major cities across the country which are relatively narrow and of sub-quality compared to regional standards.
Experts say the creation of more dry ports will help decongest major sea ports from neighbouring South Africa, Namibia and Mozambique as cargo will be transported inland much quicker to be cleared and temporarily stored inland.