By FRANK CHINGÁMBU-
On a sunny, calm and bright day, the Zambian flag waved at Julius Nyerere International Airport in Tanzania.
A few nimbus clouds were coming in from the Indian Ocean in the western part of the sky, a possible indication that rainfall would characterise the weather and consequently deny the local people a chance to witness the big occasion that was slated for their town, Dar-es-Salaam.
An entertainment package from various cultural groups awaited Zambia’s President Hakainde Hichilema who was expected to arrive in Tanzania’s capital city Dar-es-Salaam to hold bilateral talks and seek solutions on many issues that have been adversely affecting trade between the two countries.
Having been invited for a one day visit by Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu Hassan, this was Mr Hichilema’s first official visit to Tanzania since he was elected into office last year in August as Zambia’s seventh President.
Zambia and Tanzania have shared strong bilateral relations in trade, economic and political ties that date back to the 1960s.
The two countries are strategically located for both imports and exports to the rest of the world.
Just like Siamese twins, Zambia and Tanzania have had strong trade relations that have, beyond any shadow of doubt, proved beneficial for both sides economically.
The strong foundation between Zambia and Tanzania emanates from the founding fathers who were torch bearers and ensured the independence of the two countries.
No doubt, Julius Nyerere of Tanzania and Zambia’s Kenneth Kaunda enhanced the close relations that have resulted in massive economic, political and cultural freedom and advancement.
The two leaders laid a concrete foundation that culminated in the birth of Tanzania Zambia Railway (TAZARA).
The bi-national railway links the Southern Africa regional transport network to the Eastern Africa seaport of Dar-es-Salaam and offers both freight and passenger transportation services between and with Tanzania and Zambia
The goal of the project was to enhance economic and political strategies, provide a linkage not only by road, but also by rail.
It provided the best opportunities for the two countries to grow their economies.
Between 1970 and 1975, through an interest-free loan from China, Zambia and Tanzania managed to construct a 1,860 kilometer railway from Dar es Salaam in Tanzania to Kapiri Mposhi in Zambia.
Later in 1968, the two governments also constructed the Tanzania- Zambia Mafuta (TAZAMA) Pipeline that stretches 1,710 kilometers from the port of Dar-es-Salam to Indeni oil refineries in Ndola on the Copperbelt Province.
However, over the years, the TAZARA infrastructure has deteriorated while the pipeline at TAZAMA needs to be upgraded to improve its efficiency.
It is with this in mind that the two governments under the leadership of President Hichilema and President Hassan recently held bilateral talks to devise ways of how to run the two companies efficiently.
Mr Hichilema was accompanied by First Lady Mutinta, ministers Stanley Kakubo of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation; Frank Tayali of Transport and Logistics; Chipoka Mulenga of Commerce, Trade and Industry; and, Peter Kapala of Energy.
Upon arrival, the two presidents held closed door meetings that culminated into signing of an agreement to mobilize resources to revive the TAZARA railway.
Speaking shortly after the closed door meeting, which took more than an hour, the two leaders said the railway line linking the two countries would be revamped and upgraded through a joint financing arrangement.
President Hassan said the decision was part of the measures for Zambia and Tanzania to expand bilateral ties.
She further said the railway line would be upgraded to a Standard Gauge Railway (SGR).
Ms Hassan said the upgrade would be done through a Public Private Partnership (PPP) approach in the two countries.
“The old line is currently not delivering what was expected and as such we have agreed to upgrade the line so that we open up more business opportunities along the routes that connect our countries, in this era, railway is SGR and so, through the PPP, we have agreed to come up with a project to improve the TAZARA railway to that level,” she said.
The two leaders also discussed efforts to modernize the 1,710 TAZAMA commingled crude oil pipeline.
Ms Hassan said following changes in the objectives from transportation of commingled crude oil to finished products by the Zambian Government, there was need to put in place new measures that will sustain operations of the company.
Another aspect of economic significance between the two countries and Kenya was the Tanzania-Kenya Power Grid Interconnection Project that is expected to make sustainable power supply to other neighbouring countries.
“My brother, President Hichilema was telling me during our closed door talks that Zambia is now at almost 90 per cent connected with green energy. Don’t worry my brother, we will, by 2024 also reach 80 per cent,” President Hassan said.
President Hassan said the time of the completion of the Rumakali as well as the Ruhudji power projects, Tanzania would also hit 100 per cent of the green energy power supply.
During the briefing, President Hassan emphasized on the need for the two nations to work beyond expectations so as to improve production of agricultural products.
She called on Zambia to reduce the price for soya beans so that Tanzania could have access to the ‘good and improved’ seed.
Ms Hassan said Zambia and Tanzania should complement each other to upscale production of soya beans and be able to satisfy the yearning market for the oil seed in China and not to compete against each other.
Zambia has further managed to open another market for exporting goats, sheep and beef to Tanzania as it awaits another deal to export goats to Saudi Arabia.
The deal is expected to promote other sectors as a way of supplementing the mining industry in the country.
During the sidelines of the meeting, President Hichilema said he was impressed at how the Tanzanian government has managed to support artisanal mining among small scale miners. Mr Hichilema was particularly amazed to learn how the country has managed to organize artisanal mining by ensuring that there was financial support and links to markets.
Mr Hichilema said the two leaders agreed to reinvigorate the bilateral relations between the two sister countries and leverage them to maximize the benefits derived from the foundations established by founding fathers.
“It is our duty to nurse and water our relationships, political relationships, KK, Nyerere! We really have a duty to carry on that journey that our visionary leaders curved for us,” President Hichilema said.
Mr Hichilema said resuscitating the cooperation established by the two fallen Statesmen would not only help to leverage on opportunities between Zambia and Tanzania but also regional blocks such as Southern African Development Community (SADC), East African Community (EAC) and Economic Community of West African Countries (ECOWAS).
President Hichilema said the relations between Zambia and Tanzania are a heritage inherited from the founding fathers, Julius Nyerere and Dr Kaunda who underscored the significance of connecting the two countries.
He said no plan to dilute these efforts should be entertained.
President Hichilema called for the two countries to address issues of permits and charges that currently hinder smooth trade, especially for cross border.
Often referred to as ‘Zambia’s Chief Marketing Officer’, President Hichilema underscored the need to stimulate cross border trade between the two countries in order to broaden the market for goods and services produced by each country.
He said Zambia and Tanzania should regularly engage each other at various levels from the presidency narrowing down to citizens if bilateral trade ties were to be enhanced.
During his visit, President Hichilema also toured the US$7.3 billion railway project being constructed in Dar-es-Salaam. – ZANIS
By FRANK CHINGÁMBU-