Trade volumes between Tanzania and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have significantly surged from 23.1 billion/- in 2009 to 393.6 billion/- last year with the latter pledging to continue using the Dar es Salaam Port for transportation of its imports and exports.
It is against the backdrop of the booming business that the government, through the Tanzania Ports Authority (TPA), has extended the grace period for DRC-destined cargo from 14 to 30 days in which cargo at the port will be exempted from storage charges.
“Almost 50 per cent of our businesses in Eastern DRC are conducted through the Dar es Salaam Port and we will continue using the facility.
The Government of Congo is equally happy that some challenges faced the harbour in past years have been solved in recent months,” DRC President Joseph Kabila assured President John Magufuli in Dar es Salaam yesterday.
The visiting leader, who arrived in the country on Monday for a three-day state visit at the invitation of President Magufuli, made the remarks shortly before laying a foundation stone for the one-stop structure in downtown Dar es Salaam aimed at boosting operations at the port.
Construction of the 130bn/- facility, undertaken by the TPA, started in August 2012 and set to be completed by December this year, where all responsible port players will be under one-roof to ease clearing of cargo. The 35-storey structure is currently the highest building in East and Central Africa.
President Kabila assured his host of increased shipment from his country given improved production of copper from between 100,000 and 150,000 tonnes in the 1990s to around 800,000 and 1,200,000 tonnes at present “Your Excellency; the challenge now is not the volume of cargo but rather handling.
We need to improve our infrastructures for quality transportation” he stated.
President Kabila said plans were underway in his country to improve Kalemie, Momba and Uvira ports along Lake Tanganyika to improve transportation of cargo from DRC to Kigoma and eventually to Dar es Salaam port through the central railway.
President Kabila on the other hand hinted on the need to introduce direct flights from Tanzania to DRC.
“In the past, Air Tanzania had direct flights from Dar es Salaam to Lubumbushi and I think this should be re-introduced. I learned yesterday on a local television that you recently bought two aircrafts and I did the same; so we now have four planes,” he joked.
He made the remarks after the Minister for Works, Transport and Communication, Professor Makame Mbarawa, who hinted on the introduction of the direct flights between the two countries.
President Magufuli noted that the volume of DRC cargo through Tanzania increases at an average of 10.6 per cent per annum, where 15,927 containers from the vast country passed through the port last year alone.
“The government has taken both soft and bold decisions to address problems that were encountered by businesspersons at the harbour and I can assure you that efficiency has significantly improved,” President Magufuli assured his guest. He added; “In the past it used to take up to three weeks to transport consignment through Tanzania but now it would take just three days.”
Dr Magufuli noted that apart from improvements at the harbour, the government had reduced non-tariff barriers along the transportation route by reducing the number of weighbridges.
“We have now decided that there will be only three computerised weigh bridges at Vigwaza, Manyoni and Nyakahura,” Dr Magufuli remarked.
However, President Magufuli asked President Kabila to deal with some dishonest customs officials in DRC whom he blamed for frustrating Congolese businesspersons using the Dar es Salaam Port.
Earlier at the State House, the two presidents witnessed signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the two countries for exploration of oil and natural gas in Lake Tanganyika.
The agreement was inked by the Minister for Energy and Minerals, Professor Sospeter Muhongo, and DRC Minister for Energy, Mr Ngoyi Mukena.
The two leaders also discussed on the possibility of connecting an oil pipeline from DRC to the envisaged pipeline from Hoima in Uganda to Tanga Port in Tanzania. Just like Uganda, DRC has discovered oil in the western part of Lake Albert.