RUKWA: FARMERS and local entrepreneurs in Rukwa Region are reaping the benefits of the Kabwe port on Lake Tanganyika which has boosted cross-border trade between Tanzania and the land-linked Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Burundi.
The port serves as an opportunity for traders in Nkasi District and Rukwa Region as well as small farmers to supply goods and services to Moba and Kalemie provinces in DRC.
The increased cross-border trade has increased money circulation and lifted the livelihood among dwellers in Nkasi District.
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.
“More traders from within and outside Tanzania are now buying food crops and ferrying them to DRC, Burundi and Kigoma. Our economies have improved substantially” said Issack Mdude, a maize grower.
He further 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 as far as Sumbawanga town or to coastal towns to sell our crops as buyers are coming to Nkasi,” says Peter Simwela from Namanyere town.
Ms Cricensia Godgiven, who buys maize and rice from Nkasi District, ferrying the commodity to the 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 decades now, and we’re grateful to the government for constructing this port, which has eased business, and movement of people,” she said, noting that TPA charges are fair since they pay 7,000/- for each tonne.
Kabwe Port handles an average of 1,200 tonnes of cargo and 400 passengers a month, with a large per cent destined for DRC.
This paper witnessed busy labourers unloading cargo from trucks and loading it onto vessels for shipment from a small Kabwe terminal to the neighbouring DR Congo and other towns along Lake Tanganyika, the world’s longest freshwater body.
The terminal 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 as 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 to Kigoma to ferry their produce to land-linked DRC and Burundi.
Mohamed Swedi, 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 service.
He, however, called for the improvement of the road that connects Kabwe Port to the 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.
Mr Swedi also called for the timely issuance of permits to traders who transport food crops to DRC, saying the delay increased the costs of doing business.
It takes 7-8 hours from Kabwe port to Kalemie port in DR Congo on the western shores of Lake Tanganyika.
Kabwe Port officer Mr Said Bakari says during peak times, the port handles about 30 trucks on average.
He added that the port has enhanced safety and security for traders, passengers and their properties.