Tanzania: Kabwe Port Lifts Cross-Border Trade

AT a small Kabwe terminal, labourers are busy unloading cargo from trucks and loading onto vessels for shipment to the neighbouring DR Congo and other coastal towns along Lake Tanganyika, the world’s longest freshwater body.

The site gives a glimpse of the government’s commitment to bolster water transport infrastructure across the country; a well-constructed modern jetty and other essential port infrastructures.

The Kabwe Port, whose construction started on April 2, 2018, was officially commissioned in April 2020, with the government through the Tanzania Ports Authority (TPA) coughing up 7.49bn/- for the project.

The port has a small cargo shade, passenger lounge, refurbished offices and 5.5 metres deep berths, which allow big boats to dock, also serves a key gateway for traders as well as farmers to supply cereals such as cassava, maize, rice and sugar to Moba Port in DRC which is about 24 kilometres away.

Before the construction of Kabwe Port, the cross-border trade was conducted on a small-scale along the lake shore, typically on smaller wooden vessels.

With the new port, big vessels with more loading capacity dock at the port, thus, boosting trade between Nkasi residents and people in the neighbouring countries. They no longer travel all the way to Kigoma to ferry their produce to land-linked DRC and Burundi.

The construction of the terminal has massively lifted cross-border trade between Tanzania and the neighbouring DRC. The port acts as a gateway opportunity for local traders in Nkasi District and Katavi region as well as small farmers to supply goods and services to Moba and Kalemie provinces.

People from DR Congo largely depend on Tanzania for cereals-such as rice, maize and sugar as well as cement and other building materials.

Geographically, Moba Port lies about 24 kilometres from Kabwe Port and 78 kilometres from Kalemie Port, which is linked by air and train with Lubumbashi in Katanga Province, the third largest city of DRC.

According to farmers and local entrepreneurs, the construction of the port has increased money circulation and lifted the livelihood among Nkasi dwellers thanks to improved trade.

“More traders from within and outside Tanzania are now buying food crops and ferrying them to DRC, Burundi and Kigoma, our economies have improved,” said Julius Kagosha, a maize and cassava grower.

He reveals that before the construction of the port, traders were finding it hard to find reliable markets, but now buyers are coming to their area, hence guaranteeing farmers markets for their produce.

“Now we don’t have to travel to Sumbawanga town or to coastal towns to sell out crops, buyers are coming to Nkasi,” says Kagosha.

Ms Vumilia Salum, who buys cassava from Nkasi District, ferrying the commodity to her markets in Kigoma region, commended the government for improving water transportation, which is cheaper compared to other transport models.

“I have been doing this business for almost ten years now, and we’re grateful to the government for constructing this port, which has eased business,” she says, noting that TPA charges are fair. They pay 7000/- for each tonne.

Kabwe Port averages 1,200 tonnes of cargo and 400 passengers a month, with a larger percent destined for DRC.

Suleiman Mohamed, a truck owner, who transports cargo to DR Congo, says Kabwe Port has improved business and hails the Tanzania Ports Authority (TPA) for good customer services.

He, however, called for the improvement of the road that connects Kabwe port to Katavi-Rukwa highway.

“There is good customer service and businesses are performing well, but we are asking relevant authorities to improve the road that links the port with the Katavi-Rukwa highway, once this road is improved, we’ll do more business,” he stated.