A Journey to Development
The SADC Regional Infrastructure Development Master Plan (RIDMP)
and the SADC Protocol on Transport, Communications and Meteorology
underpin regional development corridors. The Moatize-Nacala railway
illustrates the benefits of corridors based on well-maintained
infrastructure and seamless transport services.
In November 2016, the first train and coaches to travel the 912km between the coal fields of Tete
Province in Mozambique and the new port of Nacala set off. The railway, traversing Malawi, is an
important link between the coal producing province and the closest major port. The train’s arrival at
Nacala ushered in a new era for SADC.
While the port of Beira had been handling the coal shipments in the past, it was unable to deal with
increased capacity, making it necessary to build a line to Malawi where it would join an existing
line that needed to be upgraded.
The Nacala-Moatize railway is one of the corridors under the RIDMP and was delivered by a
public-private partnership with the government of Mozambique.
The concept of spatial corridors and spatial development initiatives seeks to facilitate the
development of trade, industry, agriculture, mining, energy, tourism and other resources. These
resources are inherent in the zones traversed by regional infrastructure networks such as roads and
The RIDMP, approved in 2012 by SADC Member States, is the blueprint for realising the concept
in practice. For the Nacala corridor, this meant generating long-term investment returns, focusing
jobs in the region to reduce poverty, making it easier for agribusiness to grow, and contributing to
more economic, social and environmental progress.
The African Development Bank provided USD 300 million for Malawi and Mozambique in order to
upgrade infrastructure and ensure the maintenance for the railway line. Small and medium sized
businesses were earmarked for growth by the development bank.
One stretch of the existing railway line had a speed limit of 10km per hour. After the refurbishment,
trains can now run at up to 60km per hour there. Through such improvements, coal can now be
transported from Moatize to Nacala in half the time it took previously.
Corridor manager Sara Taibo says the success of the Maputo Development Corridor, linking
Mozambique’s capital to South Africa, helped secure funds for similar projects.
“It was on the basis of the Maputo corridor success story that the same concept was replicated for
the Beira and Nacala corridors, and subsequently to Zambezia with the intention of transporting
coal from Moatize,” she says.
“It is intended that these corridors not be limited to handling coal, but also to handle other cargo and
goods coming from neighbouring countries.”
The corridor will be able to carry more than 20 million tons of coal a year whose destinations will
include the Americas, Eastern Asia, Europe and India, among others.
“Right now we’re sitting at a capacity of 18 million tons of coal per annum and four million tons
capacity for general cargo,” says Taibo.
In 2016 the route handled 631 thousand tons. “This year, it is expected to handle 2.1 million tons
and 85 000 of containerised cargo,” she says.
Part of the construction challenge was that the new track had to be laid between Moatize in
Mozambique and connect with the existing railway line near Liwonde in Southern Malawi.
Fifty-year-old plumber Hillgud Kukhala was one of the construction workers employed to work on
parts of the railway. Kukhala said he had no idea that it would change his life.
“I am now a proud owner of a beautiful house that I built with my own money – something I never
dreamt would happen in my lifetime,” says Kukhala.
Besides the house, he now owns a herd of livestock and supports his widowed mother with monthly
But the benefits have gone beyond faster rail transport and construction jobs: As a result of the
technological demand of scheduling, the ICT sector supporting the railway’s management has
benefited. And an access road through Nampula and Nacala to support the corridor’s construction
was upgraded and is now being used by motorists.
The general objective of the SADC Protocol on Transport, Communications and Meteorology is to
“establish transport, communications and meteorology systems which provide efficient,
cost-effective and fully integrated infrastructure and operations, which best meet the needs of
customers and promotes economic and social development while being environmentally and
The RIDMP was instituted after SADC realised that goods moving from landlocked SADC
countries would increase from 13 million tons in 2009 to 50 million tons by 2030 and 148 million
by 2040, at an average annual growth rate of 8.2%. The total port traffic in Southern Africa will
jump from 92 million tonnes in 2009 to 500 million tonnes by 2027.
SADC says the RIDMP transport and corridor upgrades will cost USD 100 billion over fifteen
years. Most regional ports handle only 30-50% of the transit cargo, which means secondary ports
need to be developed quickly.
Many SADC ports are currently operating near capacity and some of the factors which delay cargo
include poor road, rail and port facilities, and slow clearances by regulatory agencies.
Bolstering the region’s infrastructure by expanding and making better use of existing deep-water
ports such as Nacala and Walvis Bay are important contributing factors to support the further
developments of the SADC economy.
“I am now a proud owner of a beautiful house that I built with my own money – something I never dreamt would happen in my lifetime.”
Hillgud Kukhala , Former construction worker
Through the SADC Protocol on Transport, Communications and Meteorology, signed in 1996, Member States agreed to establish transport, communications and meteorology systems which provide efficient, cost-effective and fully integrated infrastructure and operations which best meet the needs of customers and promote economic and social development while being environmentally and economically sustainable.