By Mu Dong
August 10, 2009
LILONGWE, Aug. 10 (Xinhua) — Malawi president Bingu Wa Mutharika left on Monday for Mozambique for a three-day visit where he will engage his Mozambican Armando Guebuza in intense discussion over the 6 billion U.S. dollar Shire-Zambezi water way, which landlocked Malawi is championing as a viable transportation route to the Indian Ocean.
Malawi has come up with an ambitious initiative to transport its goods from the Indian Ocean through the Mozambican port of Chinde located about 238 kilometers from Malawi’s inland port of Nsanje in Southern Malawi.
Malawi has already started construction work of the waterway canal in Nsanje, which connects the Indian Ocean through the Shire and Zambezi rivers.
Once completed the Shire-Zambezi Waterway would enable medium sea-going vessels to ply along the waterway and therefore provide Malawi a direct and short waterway access to the Indian Ocean.
Malawi’s current traditional ports are Beira and Nacala in Mozambique located about 800 kilometers and 900 kilometers away respectively, and the Tanzanian port of Dares Salaam which is about 1, 200 kilometers away.
"The major issue that I will discuss with President Guebuza is the Shire-Zambezi waterway project which is very dear to us because it will significantly reduce Malawi’s transportation costs," Mutharika told local journalists before his departure at Chileka International Airport in the commercial capital, Blantyre.
The Common Market of Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) estimated that Malawi’s transportation costs of its goods alone eat up about 60 percent of the value of the country’s exports.
COMESA further stated Malawi spends a total of 250 million U.S. dollars annually on transport costs for imports and exports as indicated in the 2005 Malawi Transport Costs Study.
The 21-member economic bloc, which has already allocated 500,000 U.S. dollars towards the project’s hydrographic study, also revealed that the Shire-Zambezi waterway route would enable Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia and other countries that would use it to make a direct annual cumulative saving of about 250 million U.S. dollars.
Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia in April 2007 signed an agreement, committing the three governments to jointly work towards development of the Shire-Zambezi waterway.
Mutharika said the two leaders would also discuss how best the two countries could develop the other transport corridors such as the Nacala and Beira corridors.
"We will also discuss other bilateral issues in the sectors of transport and communications, energy, trade and industry, human resources and culture," he said.