As the African continent rides on the waves of globalization, a quiet, yet intense battle for freight business is under way in East Africa with Tanzania, Kenya, Djibouti and Somalia taking major steps to upgrade their maritime infrastructure.
Undoubtedly, seaports play a vital role in any import-based economy, especially in developing countries where maritime transport is the primary form of access to the international market.
Trade experts believe that robust modernization of seaports in East Africa is vital to the development of maritime infrastructure and its interaction with inland transport systems on the continent.
According to a recent World Bank report, inefficiencies in Dar es Salaam costs Tanzania and neighboring countries up to US$2.8 billion in lost revenue annually. This has a negative effect on regional trade, especially among landlocked (or ‘land-linked’) countries such as Zambia that depends on the Dar es Salaam port as a gateway for international trade.
For this reason, the Dar es Salaam Maritime Gateway Project (DSMGP) worth US$421 million was established in a bid to overhaul the port of Dar es Salaam’s infrastructure by 2023.
“This project will have both direct and indirect effects on the regional economy, as it will generate new jobs and value, which will help to boost GDP. Maritime freight transit will reduce transportation costs, increase area employment and support local and port-related industries,” Lusaka based economist Boyd Muleya told Nkwazi. “The project will further promote an efficient channel through which Tanzania and Zambia can earn much-needed foreign exchange and tax revenues from their exports to the rest of the world, which have largely been lost due to inefficiencies and a lack of capacity to deal with rising export and import volumes.”
Muleya, who is also the head of research at the Centre for Trade Policy and Development (CTPD), stressed that by minimising the costs associated with port clearance delays and inadequate technology, increasing the port’s capacity will result in more efficient delivery of commodities into Zambia.
Another argument in favour of the port upgrade is that it will lead to decreased business costs, higher import supply in the region, and, as a result, downward pressure on the price of imported goods for consumers and manufacturers.
Cross-border traders have described the ongoing rehabilitation of Dar es Salaam port as a game changer in the inter-continental connectivity initiative in Africa which will continue to shape the continent’s socio-economic trajectory.
“The Dar port is key to our business growth and the ongoing rehab is long overdue as it will enhance our import-based enterprise,” Rueben Tembo, a car dealer based in Lusaka told Nkwazi. Tembo regrets that the port’s unbearably long queues from offloading ships leads to a high cost of doing business.
The Dar port facelift project is supported by the Tanzanian government and a coalition of development partners, which includes the TradeMark East Africa (TMEA), the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) and the World Bank.
It is estimated that over 70 per cent of imported goods for landlocked nations in the region transit through Dar es Salaam Port, Tanzania’s busiest crossing point via Nakonde-Tunduma border post, which is a gateway into Zambia, the Democratic Republic of Congo and through to Zimbabwe. On average, the value of cargo passing through the border to Zambia, the DRC and Zimbabwe is estimated to be US$1.5 billion (TSh3.4 trillion) annually.
With its strategic location to serve as a convenient freight linkage not only to and from East and Central African countries but also to the Middle and Far East, Europe, Australia and America, the Dar es Salaam port provides a gateway for 90 percent of Tanzanian trade, and is ultimately the East African nation’s principal port with a rated capacity of 4.1 million (dwt) dry cargo and 6 million (dwt) bulk liquid cargo. The port has a total quay length of about 2,600 metres with 11 deep-water berths and handles about 95 percent of the country’s international trade and serves neighbouring land-linked countries like Zambia, Malawi, Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda, among others, according to the Tanzania Ports Authority (TPA).
With Zambia’s import driven economy, which stands to benefit a lot from the upgrade of Dar es Salaam port, the move has excited local entrepreneurs who feel the facility contributes greatly to the country’s treasury in terms of taxes and customs duty whenever they import and export goods and services.
Valued for its proximity to the Nakonde-Tunduma border point, the Dar es Salaam port is an asset to many Zambian traders, especially car dealers who depend on this port to bring in vehicles from Japan.
Since the port is key to the survival of Zambia’s automobile business, the ongoing facelift has elated most car dealers as the move will speed up the clearance process and in turn lower the cost of doing business.
Just like car dealers, many Zambian shop owners selling groceries, hardware and second-hand clothes and medical supplies, among other things, share the same concerns about inefficiencies at Dar es Salaam’s port.
“Whenever my merchandise takes long to be delivered, this affects my cash flow due to the usual delays at the port but the ongoing facelift will facilitate efficient clearance of cargo,” said Martin Sepiso, a trader of Chinese smartphones.
Catherine Simumba, a private clearing agent based in the bustling border town of Nakonde, shares: “The ongoing rehab of the maritime facility will undeniably help grow my clientele base as my customs clearances will be done on time.”
The China Harbor Engineering Company (CHEC) has been engaged to upgrade the Dar es Salaam port with the aim of ensuring the maritime facility will have the capacity to accommodate a greater number of vessels from across the world, including much larger vessels than it currently accommodates.
“This project mainly involves the upgrade of seven existing berths and the building of a new berth that will enable large vessels with a load carrying capacity of up to 70,000 tonnes to dock at the port which previously had a capacity of under 30,000 tonnes,” TPA Director General Eric Hamissi recently said.
The port authority further stated that with a length of 300 metres and depth of 13.5 metres, the new berth will have the capacity to accommodate mega cargo ships weighing 65,000 tonnes and will be equipped with state-of-the-art cargo handling equipment.
Tanzania’s Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa recently added that the Dar es Salaam port upgrade is in the final stages of completion as the country is focused on ensuring optimal use of its strategic geographical location to enhance regional trade, stimulate economic growth and reduce transportation costs.
“These projects will enable the nation to make the most of the geographical opportunities we have, as well as stimulate economic growth and facilitate transportation,” the premier said while tabling his office’s budget proposals for the 2021/2022 financial year.