Following a successful 12th Bi-National Commission co-chaired by the Presidents of South Africa and the Democratic Republic of Congo, President Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa and President Félix Antoine Tshisekedi Tshilombo, on 6 July 2023, I held a bilateral meeting with my counterpart, Minister Marc Ekila Likombo, where we agreed to undertake a joint Ministerial visit to the Kasumbalesa port of entry, in the Province of Haut Katanga. This border post is a point of entry into the DRC from Zambia and is the main transit point for freight trucks from South Africa and various countries in the region. This visit is one of the interventions identified to give practical expression to the MOU signed by the respective Ministers of Transport on 16 July 2022 in Kinshasa.
We undertook the joint visit to the border on 15 July 2023, accompanied by relevant stakeholders in the road freight industry and authorities from the two countries. The visit was insightful and enabled us to get a better perspective on the challenges experienced by freight operators and the solutions being considered by the government of the DRC in resolving these.
The visit was followed by a meeting of officials who deliberated on the issues and possible solutions, including support that can be provided by South Africa in addressing bottlenecks that adversely affect the economies of both South Africa and the DRC.
At the conclusion of our visit, the Ministers of Transport of both South Africa and the Democratic Republic of Congo signed a joint communique, which outlines the steps to be undertaken in tackling the challenges.
Having agreed that the challenges that lead to congestion and delays at the Kasumbalesa border relate to infrastructure, equipment and procedures, we agreed that our officials will continue to engage in order to deliver tangible outcomes to our co-operation.
As part of addressing the challenges, we committed to support the DRC in automating the Kasumbalesa port of entry. Other proposed solutions include the extension of border operations to 24 hours a day, the establishment of a one-stop border post as well as the use of alternative border posts to ease congestion at Kasumbalesa.
We further agreed to support the use of railway as an alternative to decongest the Kasumbalesa road network and the development of a dry port.
The joint communique also affirmed an earlier decision to convene a dialogue and workshop in South Africa on matters of mutual co-operation, covered in the MOU, including resolution to challenges of the Kasumbalesa border post.
The resolution of the Kasumbalesa port of entry challenges requires the participation of the Zambian government in the conversation. To this end, I will be engaging with my Zambian counterpart on their participation in the discussions to find a lasting solution to the congestion problem.