Kariba is a small town in Mashonaland West province in Zimbabwe, located on the north-western shores of Lake Kariba. Initially established to house workers who were constructing the dam in the mid to late 1950s, the area’s natural attractions soon gave rise to a largely water-based tourism industry. According to a 2011 Zimbabwean parliamentary report*, economic and tourist activity in the area have sharply declined in the last decade.
During these lean years, the Kariba Dam wall connecting Zambia and Zimbabwe supported trade between the two countries.
“When engineers build a dam they consider it for many uses – one use of the Kariba Dam wall is vehicular traffic,” says Munyaradzi Munodwafa, chief executive of the Zambezi River Authority. Although the bridge is able to bear the reasonable passage of heavy vehicles, as per the limits and volumes specified by the ZRA’s well-documented policy, vehicles over three tonnes were stopped from crossing the bridge in 2005. There was no technical reason for this tonnage restriction, but it was never-the-less enforced, confirms Munodwafa. This restriction affected commercial trucks, cross-border buses ferrying traders moving merchandise between Zambia and Zimbabwe, and the movement of exports and imports by local companies into the region.
The trade information desk officer based at the Kariba border post, Shungu Matesanwa, noticed that there was something amiss about the scope of the restriction. “It didn’t seem to be evenly enforced and some large overland trucks were still allowed to cross. I then discovered that there was no policy which said that larger trucks could not cross,” he explains. In 2009 during a stakeholders workshop, Matesanwa was introduced to the Tripartite reporting and monitoring system for non-tariff barriers (NTBs). Investigations into the tonnage restriction showed that there was no technical basis for the restriction, making it a classic example of a NTB.
The complaint was logged and directed to the relevant national monitoring committee member in the ministry of transport. They were able to sort out the tonnage restriction and the bridge re-opened for business in July 2011. “Since being resolved, there is a significant change here in Kariba,” confirms Matesanwa, who has witnessed the increase in trade. “Cross-border buses are now allowed to use the bridge, traders can come and go on the same day or on consecutive days and it benefits a lot of businesses in Kariba town too.”
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