8 January 2016
Maputo Bay is an inlet of the Indian Ocean on the Mozambique coast, with the capital Maputo on one side and the town of Catembe on the opposite side. The bay is over 90 kilometres long and 32 kilometres wide.
The Maputo-Catembe Bridge project, set to be completed at the end of 2017, will replace the current ferry system and various fragmented road systems that transport goods and tourists from South Africa and Swaziland into Mozambique.
Currently, for tourists, driving is the best way to see Mozambique. But routes into the country are long and arduous, with much of the road system accessible only by 4×4 vehicles. If you do not take the ferry, trips from South Africa to the capital can take up to nine hours to complete.
The 3km-long Maputo-Catembe Bridge – Africa’s longest suspension bridge – will cut the driving time down to four hours. With a width of 680 metres, it will be able to carry high volumes of traffic comfortably in both directions.
Construction of the bridge began in 2014. It is a joint construction and management project between the Mozambique and Chinese governments. On completion, it is expected to become a significant gateway between South Africa and the rest of the Southern African Development Community. According tourism and business stakeholders, this will bring a major boost in trade and tourism.
Completion of the bridge would open up the region for tourism, claimed Natalie Tenzer-Silva, director at Dana Tours, in a recent Tourism Update interview. The region around the bridge, she said, “is spectacular and tourists will finally be able to combine . magnificent sites within easy reach of each other”.
Tenzer-Silva anticipated a surge in the self-drive market, and not just for the usual off-road enthusiasts who had made the destination popular. The distance from Ponta do Ouro, on the border with South Africa, to Maputo is almost 120 kilometres long and usually takes three hours or more to complete. But Tenzer-Silva said the bridge would allow visitors to reduce that time by a third.
— Further Africa (@FurtherAfrica) December 1, 2015
The only direct access to Maputo by vehicle from South Africa is via the border post of Kosi Bay in northern KwaZulu-Natal, according to Traveller24. The southern Golela border post via Swaziland is an option; there are longer, more demanding routes through the Komatipoort, Lebombo, and Giriyondo border posts in the north to other parts of Mozambique. The bridge will offer one direct route, on suitable roads, linking Kosi Bay and Swaziland to Maputo and the rest of Mozambique.
The bridge and linking roads will have a great impact on tourism, says Ndabo Khoza, chief executive of KZN Tourism. Hundreds of thousands of people travel between the two countries through border gates every month, often taking up to 12 hours to navigate the 90 kilometres to Maputo on often hazardous and unmaintained roads. The bridge will change everything about the journey.
“This is truly one of the tangible legacy projects of the East3Route,” says Khoza. “It will make it possible for one to have breakfast in Durban, lunch in Mbabane (Swaziland) and dinner in Maputo.”
The bridge is considered to be the most important public works project in Mozambique since the country’s independence from Portugal in 1975. It is one phase in the three-phase 209km Maputo-Ponta do Ouro road project; the 35km Maputo- Catembe section around the bridge is the first phase to be completed.
It will create 1 500 jobs for Mozambicans over the next two years, says Basilio Nzunga, a civil and structural engineer with the project.
The second phase will be to revamp and repair the 109 kilometre road that connects Catembe and Bela Vista to the South African border. The third section – the Bela Vista-Boane road – will connect the Boane farming and industry district to wider markets.
The full project, estimated to cost more than $700-million (R11.2-billion), will include revamping the border posts between South Africa and Mozambique.