The construction of a bridge over the Zambezi River between the cities of Caia and Chimuara began as far back as 30 years ago, just after Mozambique’s independence. However, construction was quickly brought to a halt when the country was thrown into a long civil war. The bridge abutments that remained have been a painful reminder of the isolation and stagnation that the region has suffered.
João Jussar, Sida’s programme officer at the Swedish embassy in Mozambique, says: “People are now hoping that the bridge will act as a tool to counteract the region’s severe poverty and inject new hope into one of Mozambique’s most vulnerable regions.”
The difficult-to-navigate Zambezi River divides the country between the north and the south. A fully operational passage is of great importance to link the country together both economically and politically. In interviews with Mozambicans, they often mention the bridge’s strong symbolism in creating national unity.
Turnaround for a neglected area
Lorries could previously wait for days, sometimes weeks, to take the ferry trip between Caia and Chimuara. Constant engine breakdowns and sensitivity to tides made the simple ferry connection unreliable. The new bridge improves possibilities for direct transport from southern Mozambique all the way up to the border with Tanzania in the north.
The bridge is expected to become an important catalyst for economic activity, especially in the poor Zambezi valley. The area is rich in natural resources but has long been isolated due to poor communications. The bridge could help open new opportunities for investments in a forgotten region.
“Mozambicans’ suffering will not end with the completion of the bridge, but its contribution to the country’s development shouldn’t be underestimated,” Jussar says. “The bridge will reduce the distance between north and south, it will make it easier for transport and trade and, in particular, it will increase the region's commercial attractiveness.”
The bridge project, which Sida has partly financed, has over time become an important symbol for peace and unity. A bridge over the Zambezi is a step towards the future, especially for the many poor people in the Zambezi valley.
Bridge over the Zambezi
Mozambique is divided by the powerful Zambezi River. The new bridge that crosses the river is the second largest in Africa. The bridge is 2,376 metres long, 16 metres wide and has two traffic lanes as well as pedestrian paths. Sweden, Italy and the EU are the main financiers for the project, which began in 2004 and is estimated to have cost SEK 640 million.