Songea. The business community in Songea District, Ruvuma Region, have raised concerns about the poor state of roads linking the region to neighbouring Mozambique, saying the situation affects cross-border trade between the two countries.
Geographically, the region - which is among the leading producers of cereals in the country - shares borders with Mozambique and Malawi via Mkenda and Mbababay crossing points respectively.
“The 124-kilometre road that links Songea Municipality and Tanzania’s border with Mozambique is inaccessible - especially during the rainy season. Therefore, trade is affected by the poor road situation,” said Mr Samson Swedi, a maize trader at Songea at a meeting with the Tanzania Chamber of Commerce, Industries and Agriculture (TCCIA) delegation last Monday in Songea.
The trader also revealed that the 240-kilometre long road that connects Congress and Lichinga towns on the Mozambican side was also inaccessible, hence equally affecting trade between the two sides.
“I appeal to the Tanzanian government to consult with its Mozambican counterpart and make sure the damaged road is rehabilitated as soon as possible. The road is potential for Ruvuma and the nation as a whole,” said Mr Swedi.
He argued that improving the roads would help boost business and create jobs for both sides of the common border.
Among other cross-border socio-economic activities, the business community in the region exports both processed and unprocessed maize products to the aforementioned neighbouring countries.
According to government statistics, Ruvuma has a total of 4,007,746 hectors of land suitable for cereal cultivation.
The statistics further shows that during 2018/19 agricultural season, the region produced a total of 1,255,134 tonnes of crops. At least 644,934 tonnes of the produced crops were maize. For his part, TCCIA’s President Paul Koyi during the meeting, called upon the Tanzania National Roads Agency (Tanroads) and other relevant authorities to make immediate efforts to rehabilitate the roads.
He added that the roads would accelerate business activities between Tanzania and Mozambique upon its rehabilitation.
“We will take this matter into further consideration by consulting with the top government leaders in the Ministry of Works, Transport and Communications and ensure they act accordingly,” said Mr Koyi.
He added: “Connecting that road which acts as a shortcut between the two destinations will reduce time for the Tanzanian traders within the region as they will be able to reach Mozambique’s market more easily.”
Referring to the business environment in Ruvuma, the assistant Regional Administrative Secretary (Economics and Production sector) for Ruvuma, Mr Deogratius Sibula, acknowledged that the poor condition of the road connecting the region with the neighbouring country Mozambique does affect business.
“We have listened to the traders’ concerns regarding the state of roads linking the region to the neighbouring country of Mozambique.
“Let me assure them that the government is working hard on the matter so as to ensure that business activities with neighbouring country continue smoothly without hurdles,” said Mr Sibula during the meeting.
He added: “We have already consulted with the relevant government authorities in Mozambique and we will soon start rehabilitating the road.”
Focusing on business activities between Tanzania and Malawi, the acting Regional Administrative Secretary said that Tanzania’s business community were not facing challenges to access Malawi’s market as the government recently constructed three passenger and cargo vessels plying from Tanzania to Malawi via Lake Nyasa.
“The road from Songea Municipal to the Bambabei border with Malawi is accessible. At the border, there are two cargo vessels and one passenger vessel that offer transport service to business persons from Tanzania and Malawi on regular basis, “ said Mr Sibula.
The Tanroads regional manager for Ruvuma, Mr Lazeki Alinanuswe, assured stakeholders that the road authority would start rehabilitating the damaged road when the rains stop.