Zimbabwe: Putting NRZ Back On Track Vital
By Benjamin Chivandire
An efficient railway system plays a significant role in the development and overall growth of any economy.
It is often regarded as the wheels of economic activity, because of the crucial role it plays in providing the bulwark upon which production and distribution stand.
In a bid to make Zimbabwe a hive of economic activity, the National Railways of Zimbabwe has made significant strides in that regard.
The recent economic partnership agreements between NRZ and partners in the region has raised optimism, not only for the national carrier, but also for the nation.
The NRZ signed agreements with partners like Unitrans Africa, Yapi Merkez from Turkey, Bak Storage and SNCC of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The national carrier is prospectively embarking on a regional and continental offensive to unlock business viability in the SADC region and Eastern African countries.
The vision is hinged on the economic geography of Zimbabwe, which poses as a transit route to the four corners of the continent through utilisation of the North-South Corridor.
These new developments offer key access and an enhanced opportunity for importers and exporters to utilise Maputo’s multi-purpose deep-water port, connecting customers in the hinterland with their global trade partners and vice versa, and underscores NRZ’s commitment to driving a sustainable economy.
For an export-led growth which Zimbabwe is heading to, rail transport is seen as the main frame around which a competitive integrated transport system is built.
Zimbabwe’s main export partners are South Africa, China, Congo and Botswana.
Rail transport’s capacity is further accentuated by its safety, convenience and security factors, coupled with its ability to cover longer distances with ease and lower unit costs.
This places it in good stead to serve as the hub of a transport system of a nation that the country can rely on.
It is impossible to dissociate freight transportation from a country’s economic activity.
Regional rail transportation plays an essential role in the economic growth and development of territory.
The effectiveness of regional railways, both in the socio-economic development of regions and as a sustainable business, is dependent on its operation and utilisation.
In the 2020-2021 farming season, Zimbabwe produced a record breaking bumper harvest of over 2,7 million tonnes of maize with a surplus of 800 000 tonnes, thanks to the good rains and Government’s intervention programmes that enhanced it.
To complement that, the tobacco harvest also rose significantly, which speaks to a significant growth in the agricultural sector, thus, opening up prospects for more exports.
A proficient railway transport system’s contribution to economic growth is most significant within large, high productivity sectors such as in coal mining.
Through the railway, large cargoes are transported significantly cheaper as compared to other forms of transport, hence increasing profits, and releasing funds for other capital projects.
For instance, besides being more expensive in transporting huge cargo and logistics operations, relying on the road network in transportation of freight damages road infrastructure.
The mining roadmap, also known as “Strategic Road to the Achievement of US$12 billion by 2023”, makes the need for an effective railway network apt.
The roadmap targets gold revenue at US$4 billion, platinum group metals at US$3 billion, chrome, iron, steel and diamonds at US$1 billion, lithium at US$500 million, while other minerals are expected to contribute an estimated US$1,5 billion.
The enabling impact of railway transportation is defined as the total economic impact as an affordable mode of transport to passengers, which will be more like giving services to citizens.
The creation of the railway transport network influenced the location of economic activities (economic geography).
Therefore, in line with Vision 2030, infrastructure development, particularly railway, is of paramount importance as it anchors the economy as a whole.