Unlocking the landlocked regions of South Africa's Mpumalanga, Gauteng and Limpopo Province, the Maputo Development Corridor is a transportation corridor in the true sense.
A system of road, rail, border posts, port and terminal facilities, the corridor runs through the most highly industrialised and productive regions of Southern Africa, and connects Africa's most powerful economy with one of its poorest. Its aims are to provide South Africa's industrial hub with a closer route to the sea, while uplifting the war-ravaged economy of Mozambique, at the same time creating a swathe of industrial and commercial opportunity along the 590km route from Johannesburg to the port of Maputo.
The corridor passes through vast industrial and primary production areas containing steel mills, petrochemical plants, quarries, mines and smelters, through plantations of forests, sugar cane, bananas and citrus to the eastern end of Mozambique.
About 90km beyond the Komatipoort-Ressano Garcia frontier are the Mozambican deepwater ports of Maputo and Matola, traditionally the nearest harbour facilities for the importers and exporters of the region. Johannesburg and Pretoria are on the western end of the Corridor's axis with large concentrations of manufacturing, processing, mining and smelting industries.
The Maputo Corridor is a critical illumination of "how the South African government struggles to unite private capital, local people and its neighbours in Southern Africa to bring about development", says Financial Times world news editor James Lamont. It also meant bringing together a Mozambican administration previously steeped in Marxist ideals, and a reasonably capitalist government and private sector in South Africa. Seeing eye-to-eye was not immediately apparent, but to succeed was paramount.
"For the South African government, the Maputo corridor was a torch bearer of the fast-track development they hoped would lead to higher growth rates and greater employment," says Lamont.
The corridor is now 10 years old, as are some of the stubborn problems associated with it. Perhaps one of the most notable challenges has been simply reaching an agreement to keep the border post facility at Komatipoort-Ressano Garcia open around the clock. That has involved tortuous negotiations with the Customs workers' unions of both countries.
The second major problem has been the rehabilitation and upgrade of the rail line linking Komatiport-Ressano Garcia with Maputo. The line had suffered from three decades of neglect...