Prisca Murwira in Dubai
The National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) has signed a contractual agreement with DP World for a massive investment in rail infrastructure development.
DP World is a United Arab Emirates-based leading global supply chain and logistics company that has been operating in Africa for the past 20 years.
The agreement was signed on the sidelines of the on-going Expo 2020 Dubai.
This followed the visit by Vice President Constantino Chiwenga in Dubai a week ago when the company expressed its interest to partner Zimbabwe in the area of trade and logistics infrastructure.
A delegation led by Transport and Infrastructural Development Minister, Felix Mhona, NRZ board chairman Advocate Martin Dinha and acting NRZ chief executive officer Mrs Respina Zinyanduko, represented Zimbabwe.
DP World CEO and managing director for Middle East and Africa, Mr Suhail Al Banna, said the firm will align its investment guided by Zimbabwe’s vision.
“Our interest with Zimbabwe is to develop inland corridors for free movement of goods between countries,” he said.
The company is making arrangements to deploy a technical team to Zimbabwe for a feasibility study of potential volumes that could be moved by the railway network
An assessment of suitability of Rutenga, Mutare, Lion’s Den and Harare as locations to build dry ports is also on the cards.
As a trade enabler in infrastructure like roads, rail and dry ports and with business units in 60 countries across the globe, DP World is a global logistics company that allows trade by assisting the entire supply chain.
In the Middle East and Africa (Sub-Saharan region), it is operating in eight countries.
The signing of the agreement will see Zimbabwe complementing a similar trade easing venture in Mozambique, where DP World is developing a seaport in Maputo.
The company has similar interests in eight countries so far, such as Senegal and Egypt.
Minister Mhona said the invitation came at an opportune moment as Zimbabwe’s open for business drive, championed by President Mnangagwa, was bearing fruit.
“I am also aware that your invitation is a follow-up to my delegation’s visit to Rwanda from September 5-10, 2021, where we were impressed by the good work you have commenced in Rwanda under the auspices of the DP World Kigali dry port superintended by CEO, Mr Sumert Bhardwaj,” said Minister Mhona.
“One of the key pillars and enablers of economic transformation in Zimbabwe is the transport and transport infrastructure sector. The sector is showing a lot of potential at a time we are working on various infrastructural projects such as roads rehabilitation and widening.
“We are also working on expansion of our airports, with the Victoria Falls expansion project having been commissioned. The Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport expansion project is also at an advanced stage.”
Turning to the NRZ, Minister Mhona said, “In view of the foregoing, NRZ is on a massive recapitalisation drive, propelled by a strong business-driven model to expand its operations to meet demand created along the fast growing minerals, agriculture, manufacturing and retail value chains.
“In that endeavour, there is a need for storage and creation of seamless linkages between storage facilities, source markets and end users, pushing NRZ to be proactive in its approaches. One such initiative, which the Government has approved, is for the NRZ to partner with actors who can set up dry ports around the country.”
Minister Mhona said Zimbabwe adopted the dry port concept, which will be implemented countrywide, with the NRZ playing a crucial role in the establishment of the ports along its strategic routes.
“A case in point is that the NRZ, which is on an accelerated drive to engage partners on its recapitalisation efforts, has targeted to refurbish its former dry port at Lion’s Den for storage and strategic logistics, handling and shunting of cargo earmarked for export, through the traditional sea routes in Durban, Beira, Maputo and Walvis Bay,” he said.
“Movement of cargo along these rail corridors will give a big boost to the NRZ business.”
Minister Mhona highlighted that the Zimbabwe Dry Port in Walvis Bay, which was officially opened by President Mnangagwa and his Namibian counterpart, Mr Hage Geingob, on July 26, 2019 in Namibia, and other envisaged dry ports in the country, such as Mutare and Harare, would require capitalisation to ensure their full operationalisation.
Adv Dinha urged DP World to use Zimbabwe as a launchpad to penetrate various countries, especially in the Southern region.
Mrs Zinyanduko said Zimbabwe was centrally located in the Southern region with key corridor rail links to five countries namely; South Africa, Botswana, Zambia, Mozambique and the Democratic Republic of Congo (via Zambia).
The central location is ideal for freight consolidation, warehousing, and intermodal linkages.
Mrs Zinyanduko commended DP World for partnering Zimbabwe as there was vast land for development of inland dry ports for local and over border freight customers.
Zimbabwe’s partnership with DP World will enable total supply chain solutions for imports, exports and transit clients within the SADC region.
Reduction of road traffic due to rail-road linkages will be permitted.
There will also be a seamless service, with no border delays on rail since customs activities will be conducted in the dry ports.
Easier cross-country logistics and trade, as well as growth in exports and ultimately economic development, and direct link to the ports for landlocked countries in the region, are some of the advantages being envisaged.
◆ Prisca Murwira is senior information officer in the Ministry of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services, and is presently in Dubai for the 2020 Expo.