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 4x4 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.
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
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
The full project, estimated to cost more than $700-million (R11.2-billion), will
include revamping the border posts between South Africa and Mozambique.
A suspension bridge across Maputo Bay, linking Maputo and Catembe, aims to boost trade and tourism between Mozambique and the rest of Southern Africa. The project is expected to be completed in 2017. (Image: Wikipedia)