By Barbara Mommen, Chief, Executive Officer, Maputo Corridor Logistics Initiative
The long weekend was predictably a disastrous situation for everyone crossing the border, regardless of the direction. This could easily have been averted had the authorities been more proactive about their service provision and repeated the good performance of the 24 hour operation over the Easter Weekend, which, despite the challenges of considerable volumes, managed to keep both tourist and freight traffic moving .
The same can not be said about the past long weekend (in South Africa) where traffic ground to a halt for hours on end. The ramifications are enormous no matter how one looks at it. Tourism loses, economies lose and cargo delays add costs for everyone involved. The biggest disaster of all is that the poor will, once again, carry the brunt of the increased food costs due to the delays at the border of imports into Mozambique.
I cannot help thinking that the possibilities that could occur when forward planning kicks into gear, far outweigh the difficulties of a longer shifts and other challenges of running a joint 24 hour operation. It appears that the 24 hour operation of the Lebombo/Ressano Garcia border announced by South African President, Cyril Ramaphosa, in his March visit to Mozambique has not filtered beyond the media and has gained no traction what so ever in the service provision at the border posts.
The political will that gave birth to the Maputo Corridor and the incredible growth that occurred in the first ten years and the resultant surge in growth of the regional economy that happened in recent years, has dissipated. And we as a region are worse off because of it. Complaints about border operations have escalated at MCLI, and while we do whatever we can to facilitate engagement, the lack of leadership and strategic thinking, or so it appears to me, seems to be eating away at the attractiveness of a trade route that could, if our governments would sit up and take note, be a brilliant example of how efficient trade and transport can contribute to economic growth. We are also deeply aware of how hard our partners and stakeholders work, but we are as deeply aware that things cannot continue as they are.
WE NEED A 24 HOUR ONE STOP BORDER POST AT LEBOMBO/RESSANO GARCIA
Despite the disheartening events of the weekend, I firmly believe that our efforts will not be in vain. MCLI will not stop doing everything in its power to work with all stakeholders on the corridor to ensure that this corridor becomes an efficient, competitive option for the region.