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Zambia and DRC reiterate their commitment to promoting trade

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Cross-border truckers transporting minerals from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) have finally received some relief from the chronically clogged Kasumbalesa border crossing. The governments of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Zambia have signed a new trade facilitation agreement aimed at resolving long-standing transit concerns affecting this vital artery for regional mineral trade.

Kasumbalesa’s significance goes beyond the DRC and Zambia. It serves as a vital gateway for minerals required by modern technologies, particularly the burgeoning electric vehicle (EV) industry.  The Democratic Republic of the Congo produces 70% of the world’s cobalt, a vital component in EV batteries.  The World Bank estimates that the DRC produces 100,000 tonnes of cobalt per year, well above the total output of all other producers (140,000 tonnes).

Kasumbalesa isn’t just about cobalt. It’s a major transit point for other valuable minerals like copper and columbite-tantalite (coltan), used in capacitors for smart appliances.  These minerals are vital for various industries, including heat-resistant alloys, tool steel, magnetic materials, catalysts, desiccants, aerospace machinery, and even radioactive applications.

The new agreement, involves a “draft collaboration framework and action plan” designed to find lasting solutions for Kasumbalesa’s congestion woes.  DRC’s deputy prime minister, Peter Kazadi, emphasized the country’s commitment to finding long-term solutions for transporters suffering through the Kasumbalesa bottleneck.

However, optimism is tempered by past experiences.  Last year, a similar bilateral agreement promised to transform Kasumbalesa into a 24-hour border, but the issue of chronic congestion persisted.  Truckers continued to face delays for weeks, prompting renewed high-level discussions to address the problem.

Kazadi acknowledged the situation’s negative impact on trade between the DRC and Zambia, pledging joint efforts with Zambia to find a lasting solution.  Despite these pronouncements, skepticism lingers among logistics experts who have long advocated for smoother regional trade flows within the Southern African Development Community (SADC).  One such expert expressed hope that this agreement will translate into real action, unlike previous “talk shops” that failed to deliver.

The success of this new agreement hinges on effective implementation and sustained commitment from both the DRC and Zambia.  Streamlining processes, upgrading infrastructure, and addressing potential corruption at the border are crucial steps.  Only through concrete actions and a genuine focus on improving efficiency can Kasumbalesa finally shed its reputation as the world’s most congested border and fulfill its potential as a vital artery for the region’s mineral trade.

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