Malawi President Peter Mutharika and Zambia President Edgar Lungu on Tuesday held bilateral talks focusing on a range of key issues including boosting trade and progress on the actualization of the Shire Zambezi World In-land Port project, regional integration and Agriculture.
Spokersperson for the Malawi leader, Mgeme Kalilani told Nyasa Times the two leaders discussed “several matters of mutual interests”.The two leaders held the discussion at the African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on the sidelines of the 28th AU Summit of Heads of State and government.
He said Mutharika and leader of Malawi’s strategic neighbour Zambia have resolved to work together and lobby their colleagues in the region to buy into the idea of the Shire Zambezi World Inland port so that it can be expidited.
“President Mutharika and Presidetn Lungu agreed that the Shire Zambezi World Inland Port has the potential to turn around the fortunes of severa countries in southern Africa including Malawi, Zambia, Mozambique and Zimbabwe among others,” said Kalilani.
Landlocked Malawi and Zambia heavily rely on the Nacala Port by rail and Beira Port by road which have proven too expensive, making exports and imports uncompetitive and stifling economic growth, especially for Malawi. Zambia also uses Dar es Salaam in Tanzania railway.
Malawi and Zambia have argued that the waterway would stimulate economic activities in the three countries, including Mozambique, by creating employment through trade and tourism development apart from providing permanent employment on the water, rail and road route.
The Shire-Zambezi Waterway is former president Bingu wa Mutharika’s pet project and he inaugurated the Nsanje Inland Port on 23 October 2010 but the place is now dormant.
The waterway is expected to link landlocked Malawi—which has for decades been reeling from the negative impact of high transport costs—to the Indian Ocean through the port of Chinde.
A 2011 study by Malawi Lake Basin Programme on cross-border trade indicated that Malawi could save $173 million (about K128 billion) of the total annual import bill once the port is fully operational.
The African Development Bank (AfDB)—through the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa)—approved $3.5 million (about K2.6 billion) towards conducting a comprehensive feasibility study on the Shire-Zambezi Waterway Project which started in 2012.