BY SYDNEY KAWADZA
ZIMBABWE is set to miss out on a multi-million-dollar fund for countries sharing the Zambezi watercourse because of its external debt estimated at US$10,5 billion.
The funds will be disbursed through a facility known as the Programme for Integrated Development and Adaptation to Climate Change (PIDACC). The PIDACC-Zambezi is a programme initiated through the Zambezi Watercourse Commission (Zamcom) established through an agreement between Sadc countries — Angola, Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. It was established in 2014 based on an agreement that was signed in 2004. The PIDACC-Zambezi is expected to initiate capital projects along the watercourse through loans, according to the same project implemented in the Niger Delta in West Africa.
However, only Botswana, Namibia and Angola qualify for loans from the AfDB while Zimbabwe and the other four countries will only get grants.
The grants would be inadequate for capital projects like the Gwayi-Shangaani Dam in Matabeleland and Dande Dam in Mashonaland Central meaning the countries would make do with small projects like community boreholes
The PIDACC programme is part of Zamcom’s key mandate of creating development instruments of cooperation between riparian states to source investment for growth projects. Riparian states refer to countries that share a common water body. Zamcom is working with strategic partners, the Global Mechanism of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (GM-UNCCD) and the Climate Resilient Infrastructure Development Facility (CRIDF).
The GM-UNCCD and CRIDF have poured in close to US$600 000 with some of these funds having been used for the pre-feasibility study as part of preparation for PIDACC Zambezi.
The AfDB is funding the feasibility study and then the full-scale PIDACC Zambezi programme.
In an interview, principal director in the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Water, Fisheries and Rural Development Tinayeshe Mutazu confirmed Zimbabwe’s endorsement of the project.
“Funds for the project would be channelled through Treasury and I am happy to announce that ministry of Finance and Economic Development secretary George Guvematanga has issued us with an endorsement letter for the project,” he said.
Guvamatanga released the endorsement on Monday last week while sources from Zamcom confirmed that Zimbabwe had indeed endorsed the project. Zambia was the first member state to endorse the project while Botswana submitted its endorsement letter a fortnight ago with Zimbabwe following suit early last week.
“We have also come up with documentation outlining projects that we have earmarked for the programme and we expect these to be beneficial to the people of Zimbabwe,” Mutazu said.
There are, however, fears that Zimbabwe would not be able to fully benefit from the PIDACC-Zambezi projects because of the country’s debt to the AfDB, which currently stands at US$723 million. Finance and Economic Development minister Mthuli Ncube confirmed the external debt when he presented the 2021 budget statement. Sources also revealed that while Zimbabwe has a number of projects linked to the Zambezi watercourse including the Gwayi-Shangani Dam and Dande Dam, these would not be funded through the project.
“Zimbabwe and other riparian states in the Zamcom arrangements can only get grants from the AfDB but these grants would not be adequate for capital projects linked to the Zambezi watercourse,” s source said.
“The PIDACC-Zambezi project could assist governments build dams among other projects but with governments such as Zimbabwe only qualifying for grants that could be used for small projects such as boreholes in communities along the watercourse,” the source said.
“Government has been forced to fund most of its dam projects leading to the successful completion of projects such the Kudu Dam along Mupfure River but the PIDACC-Zambezi would have been ideal for dam projects such as the Dande Dam among others.”
The PIDACC-Zambezi is targeted at tackling challenges such as persistent poverty with more than 64,8% of the Zambezi Watercourse’s population living in rural areas. These rural communities depend largely on rain-fed subsistence agriculture and are extremely vulnerable due to little or no investment in local water infrastructure development.
About 96,5% of agricultural activity, by area, in the Zambezi watercourse is rain-fed and the majority of this is smallholder farming.
The study is also expected to confirm the viability of the proposed interventions in the pre-feasibility study while identifying the specific location of projects in the different Zambezi riparian states. The Zambezi watercourse is categorised into three distinct stretches — upper, middle and lower — and comprises 13 sub-basins. The Zambezi rises out of a marshy bog near Kalene Hills in northwest Zambia, about 1 460 metres above sea level, and after about 2 600 km of total run, the river reaches the Indian Ocean at the Zambezi Delta in Mozambique.
The river flows some 32km before entering Angola, through which it runs for more than 282 km and in this first section, the river is met by more than a dozen tributaries of varying sizes.
After re-entering Zambia, the Zambezi River flows over the Chavuma Falls arriving into a broad region of hummocky, sand-covered floodplains, the largest of which is the Barotse, or Zambezi Plain.
The main tributaries intersecting the river along the plains are the Kabompo River from the east and the larger Lungué-Bungo (Lungwebungo) River from Angola in the west.
The Zambezi then reaches a stretch of rapids that extends from Ngonye (Sioma) Falls south to the Katima Mulilo Rapids, after which for about 129 km it forms the border between Zambia to the north and the eastern Caprivi Strip of Namibia.