The good news is that work to expand the Beitbridge border post is picking up pace. But the bad news is that construction will worsen delays at the already chaotic transit point.
Zimborders, a local consortium, is leading a US$296 million project to upgrade border post, one of the busiest on the continent. The project will cause further delays at the border, which saw damaging congestion last year, blamed partly on the movement of construction equipment to the site.
“The Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (ZIMRA) says the wishes to advise all travellers, importers, exporters, transporters, clearing agents and the general public that due to ongoing extensive construction work at Beitbridge Border Post in the ongoing upgrade programme, the border post’s traffic handling capacity has been significantly impacted upon,” the tax agency said in a statement this weekend.
The works will cut working and parking spaces and disrupt traffic channels, Zimra warned.
“This reduction in capacity is anticipated to result in significant congestion and delays in the effective passage of all traffic, particularly north bound traffic. This situation is projected to last for the next six weeks during which period construction work will be at its highest,” the agency said.
There will be disruption of “the smooth movement of the traffic”, said Zimra, urging cargo firms and travellers to “consider, where possible, the use of alternative transit routes to avoid the anticipated delays”.
In December, Zimborders reached financial close, raising money through a mix of debt and equity, allowing construction works to start on the project. This includes money for construction of the border, as well as other amenities in Beitbridge town.
The project will see new terminals being built for each vehicle category. They will include new vehicle parking areas and feeder roadways. The project will take almost two years.
New cargo scanning equipment will be installed to allow for faster inspection of cargo and detection of fraud, contraband and potential threats (explosives, radioactive materials, etc). Manual unloading and inspection will also be reduced.
“We have been briefed that by September this year, they will actually open for the freight terminal and next year in November, they will be done with the whole project,” Transport Minister Felix Mhona says.
Emerging Africa Infrastructure Fund (EAIF), part of the Private Infrastructure Development Group, together with Afreximbank, are the mandated lead arrangers of development finance institution debt for the project.
EAIF is lending US$43.7 million, while Afrex approved US$70 million to help fund the expansion. Afrex also issued investment guarantee of US$27 million to Phembani Remgro Infrastructure Fund for its investment in Zimborders. Last November, Phembani and private equity firm Harith General Partners announced they were buying equity in Zimborders, as part of fund raising for the project.
The project is backed by large South African banks – RMB, Standard Bank, Nedbank and Absa – with JSE-listed Raubex the main contractor. In a trading update to shareholders in April, Raubex said “works commenced swiftly and are progressing well” at Beitbridge.