The respective Chairmen of COMESA (Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa), EAC (East African Community), and SADC (Southern African Development Community), three of Africa´s most important regional economic communities, met with representatives of international aid and development agencies to discuss a key project for enhancing transport infrastructure throughout the whole region. Supported by the United Kingdom‘s (UK) Department of International Development (DFID), the three regional blocs are seeking to build a reliable and modern transport network that will foster international trade by improving the efficiency of transport infrastructure and lower costs.
The integrated North-south Corridor project aims not only at improving transport facilities such as highways and railways, but also at simplifying customs and regulatory procedures, and improving power supply and transmission throughout the 12 Southern Africa Power Pool. The initiative will directly affect the eight African countries through which the corridor will run (Botswana, Democratic Republic of Congo, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe) and indirectly benefit other neighboring countries.
With the overall objective of fostering development and economic growth through trade facilitation, the project foresees that along with the smoother flow of transport and the speeding up of border crossings, a further integration of regional and international markets, and a stimulus to Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) will come.
The North-South Corridor consists of the integration of two priority corridors previously planned by the NEPAD (New Partnership for Africa's Development) which is supported by a World Trade Organization (WTO) pilot Aid-for-Trade programme: i) the Dar es Salaam Corridor which will link Dar es Salaam port in Tanzania with the Copperbelt in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Zambia; and ii) the North-South Corridor linking the Copperbelt to South Africa’s ports. The cost of implementing the integrated corridor is estimated at US$ 1 billion and is expected to take 5 to 10 years to complete.
Further negotiations to advance the project will take place during a conference to be held in Lusaka, Zambia, with the participation of international organizations and foreign governments such as the African Development Bank, the African Union, British DFID authorities, the European Union Trade Commission, the World Bank, and the World Trade Organization. The comprehensive participation of international stakeholders responds both to recognition of Africa´s lack of means to support trade-led development and to attractive prospects of future benefits. From the WTO´s standpoint the support of underdeveloped African countries is key to unlocking at least part of the strong opposition to the Doha Round negotiations. For the UK and the EU, the prospect of privileged access to lucrative investment initiatives has probably exercised considerable influence.