OPTIMISM is high in Katavi Region as farmers and traders prepare for an expected boom in business once construction of Karema port on the shores of Lake Tanganyika is completed.
The people here, blessed with large tracts of rich and fertile soil overlooking the lake which is the world’s longest (660km), deepest in Africa, hope they would seize lucrative market opportunities in DR Congo and Burundi when construction of Karema port is completed.
It is being constructed by China’s Xiamen Ongoing Construction Group at 47.9bn/- financed by the government, through the Tanzania Ports Authority (TPA), to exploit the untapped great potential of a cross-border trade with DR Congo.
The new port will be linked with a standard gauge railway to be constructed from Mpanda District and road to make it a proper gateway for the DR Congo and Burundi to the Asian market through the Dar es Salaam port.
According to a consultant of the project, Elisante Edward, the work involves construction of a multi-purpose berth to accommodate to two ships of 75 metres in length, a 22,500 square metre heavy duty pavement, breaking water structure, dredging and deepening of port entrance, office building, passenger lounge and a general cargo storage building.
Others are construction and installation of enabling infrastructure which include ICT network and security system, water supply, storage and wastewater treatment system, he said. Construction work began in October 2019 before it experienced some delays last year.
By the first week of June this year, the work had reached 38 per cent. Following Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa’s directive in July last year, construction work is done on 24/7 basis in three shifts to complete the project on time.
As the construction work takes shape, the people in Katavi relish the prospects of benefiting much more from the huge and lucrative markets in the Eastern part of DR Congo and Burundi once the port is completed.
Karema Acting Division Officer, Samson Elias said they were eagerly waiting for completion of the port as it would open the DR Congo and Burundi markets for their farm produce. He said they were also looking forward for Karema Township to become a trade and logistic hub in the Eastern Africa region as it will be linked with a railway line from Mpanda District.
The new Karema port would be a game changer for Kigoma, Katavi and Rukwa economies as it will attract domestic and foreign investments that will open up job and trade opportunities, he said.
“Things will change for better. We’re highly optimistic of a bright future,” he said.
He said Karema and surrounding villages benefit from the ongoing construction work in terms of employment of the youth and trade opportunities.
The contractor has also built four class rooms at Karema Village and the road leading to the port site has been rehabilitated.
“Villagers have been recruited for jobs in the project. About 150 youths from Karema and surrounding villages have found job in the project and they earn not less than 10,000/- per day,” he said.
He said the project had also opened trade opportunities where farmers sell rice, maize flour, chicken and vegetable to construction workers. The Karema Village Chairman, Sirilo Gabriel Mpondela said they were happy as the project has stimulated business and other economic activities in Karema and surrounding villages.
They were optimistic that cross-border trade with DR Congo would flourish once the port is completed.
“We have received so many people here and trading of so many things has flourished,” he said.
The Karema Village Executive Officer, Stephen Caleb Madata said the villagers whose land was taken to pave the way for port construction were compensated save for only few who had issues in documentation.
The Acting Manager for Lake Tanganyika Ports, Augustine Nyoni said the new Karema port is expected to be a gateway for DR Congo through the Central Transport Corridor which connects the Dar es Salaam port by road, rail, inland waterways to Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda and the Eastern part of DR Congo.
The corridor forms part of the backbone of the regional transportation system in Eastern and Central Africa carrying the imports of five countries with a population of more than 120 million people. He said the new port is expected to attract domestic and foreign investments that will stimulate business and economic activities in the region.
“Banks will open offices here, travel agents will also come. Hotels and lodges, restaurants, big shops are also expected. Karema port will open immense economic opportunities for Katavi and Rukwa regions and for the nation in general,” he said.
The new port will boost the country’s prospects of becoming a major regional transport and trading hub in the Eastern and Central Africa. It is complementing government’s efforts to make optimal use of strategic geographical location of the country to enhance regional trade that will stimulate economic growth and development.
“This port will enable the nation to make the most of the geographical opportunities we have as well as stimulate economic growth and development,” he said.