In a move aimed at boosting trade and cooperation between South Africa and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Minister Chikunga, the Minister of Transport, recently concluded a visit to the Kasumbalesa border post. The visit followed the successful 12th Bi-National Commission co-chaired by Presidents Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa and Félix Antoine Tshisekedi Tshilombo, which took place on 6 July 2023.
Kasumbalesa border post, situated in the Province of Haut Katanga, serves as a critical point of entry into the DRC from Zambia and facilitates the transit of freight trucks from South Africa and neighboring countries. Acknowledging the significance of this entry point, both countries previously signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on 16 July 2022 in Kinshasa, focusing on matters of transportation.
The joint Ministerial visit on 15 July 2023 involved Minister Chikunga and her DRC counterpart, Minister Marc Ekila Likombo, along with relevant stakeholders in the road freight industry and authorities from both countries. The purpose of the visit was to gain deeper insights into the challenges faced by freight operators and to explore potential solutions to streamline operations.
Following the visit, officials from both nations held a meeting to deliberate on the identified issues and devise suitable remedies to mitigate them. The primary challenges leading to congestion and delays at the Kasumbalesa border were found to be related to infrastructure, equipment, and procedures.
To tackle these issues effectively, both ministers agreed to maintain ongoing engagement between their respective officials, focusing on delivering practical outcomes to strengthen cooperation.
As part of their commitment to addressing these challenges, one of the key initiatives is the automation of the Kasumbalesa port of entry. Automating border operations is expected to enhance efficiency and reduce processing times for vehicles and cargo, thereby easing congestion.
Another critical measure involves extending border operations to operate 24 hours a day. This step aims to streamline the movement of goods and vehicles across the border, ensuring a smoother and more continuous flow of trade.
The establishment of a one-stop border post is another noteworthy proposal. By integrating customs and immigration facilities from both countries into a single location, this initiative can significantly expedite border crossing processes.
Additionally, to alleviate pressure on the Kasumbalesa road network, the ministers discussed promoting the use of railway transportation as an alternative for freight movement. This approach would help decongest the roadways, enhancing trade flow and promoting environmental sustainability.
Furthermore, both countries have agreed to explore the development of a dry port. This inland facility would act as an extension of the seaport, allowing cargo to be pre-cleared before reaching the border, further facilitating seamless trade operations.
In a bid to facilitate ongoing discussions and resolution to the challenges at the Kasumbalesa border post, the ministers affirmed a previous decision to hold a dialogue and workshop in South Africa. This platform would cover various aspects of mutual cooperation outlined in the MOU, with a special focus on the Kasumbalesa border post challenges.
However, it is crucial to note that finding a lasting solution to the congestion issue requires the involvement of the Zambian government as well. Minister Chikunga has expressed her intention to engage with her Zambian counterpart to ensure active participation in the discussions and collectively address the border post challenges.
In conclusion, Minister Chikunga’s visit to the Kasumbalesa border post signifies a significant step towards strengthening bilateral relations between South Africa and the DRC. By actively addressing the challenges faced at this vital point of entry, the two nations aim to enhance trade, improve cross-border transportation, and foster deeper economic cooperation. As officials continue their engagements, the proposed measures of automation, extended operational hours, one-stop border posts, railway utilization, and dry port development offer promising avenues to streamline trade and bolster economic growth in the region.