New move to promote Maputo as an alternative trade route

26th March 2004 By: candice haase

The transport infrastructure developed across South Africa’s landlocked Gauteng, Limpopo and Mpumalanga provinces to the port of Maputo, in Mozambique, has the potential to serve as the backbone of export and import activity in the region.

Maputo Corridor Logistics Initiative (MCLI) chief executive Brenda Horne identified the transport infrastructure that has been developed in the last eight years as a facility for those in the logistics sector to exploit and, in so doing, develop the economies of the two countries further. The initiative was launched in February.

To influence the continued use and growth of business activity along the Maputo Development Corridor (MDC), MCLI aims to promote the strategic benefits of the corridor by combining the views of infrastructure investors, logistics service providers and businesses that use the infrastructure to promote and develop the route. “The participants agree that activity on the MDC needs to be coordinated again to tackle the constraints that exist and to improve it,” Horne remarks.

The development of two major resources projects – the Mozal aluminium plant, in Maputo, and the 865 km Sasol natural-gas pipeline project that extends from Mozambique to Secunda, in Mpumalanga – have been among the main drivers of economic activity along the MDC. Both projects are supported by the N4 Maputo Corridor highway and the port. Horne emphasises that Maputo’s port is now operating while upgrading activity continues.

However, she maintains that the existing capacity, as well as that being developed at the port, needs to be used.

At the moment, only 35 000 of the 100 000 containers at the recently-upgraded container terminal are being used, Horne laments. The conundrum that needs to be resolved is that there has to be sufficient cargo to justify the presence of additional shipping lines.

“Economies of scale with larger cost savings need to be developed,” Horne explains.

To exploit the existing and developing infrastructure effectively, she is lobbying export- and import-driven businesses to become partners in the MCLI.

Thus far, the Section 21 company has brought BHP Billiton subsidiary Manganese Metal Company (MMC), Transvaal Sugar Board, Trans African Concessions, Transafrica Logistics, Matola Coal Terminal, Mozambique Produce Terminal, Mozambique International Port Services and the Maputo Port Development Company together as founder members.

Representatives from these organisations will serve as executive directors on the board.

The South African Chamber of Business, the National African Federated Chamber of Commerce, the Foundation for African Business and Consumer Services and the Afrikaanse Handels Instituut, all represented at the provincial level, have bought in to the concept and will be represented on the board of directors at the nonexecutive level.

Representatives of Mozambique’s Confederation of Business Associations of Mozambique (CTA) and the Investment Promotion Centre (CPI) will participate at the same level. Horne, seconded from MMC, believes that by including businesses such as these in MCLI, they will continue to be involved with the infrastructure along the route and ensure that it is maintained.

She also emphasises MCLI’s ethos of being inclusive.

“Any organisation with an interest in moving cargo along the MDC is encouraged to join,” she states.

The investment made by the Mozambican and South African governments in developing the MDC and upgrading the port, rail and road infrastructure has been central to the development of the economy of the region.

Moreover, the continued efforts of both governments to secure and improve the Lebombo/Ressano Garcia border post will support the transport route further.

The collaboration between Mozambique and South Africa, which started eight years ago, should serve as the foundation to rebuild these economies and restore the trade and investment ties the countries once shared. In addition to stimulating jobs in the logistics sector along the MDC, the route will support the continued development of other sectors, such as the tourism industry, that use the transport infrastructure.

She stresses that the idea behind developing the MDC is not to create competition for the other ports used by South African importers and exporters, but to enhance the port and ensure that it can be used cost-effectively by importers and exporters nearby.