Skip to content
Home » Beitbridge goes from worst to best African border post

Beitbridge goes from worst to best African border post

In a Moneyweb article written by Ciaran Ryan, it is reported that the Beitbridge border between South Africa and Zimbabwe has improved beyond recognition, with further improvements imminent.

The Beitbridge border between South Africa and Zimbabwe has improved beyond recognition, with further improvements imminent. Image supplied by Zimborders
The Beitbridge border between South Africa and Zimbabwe has improved beyond recognition, with further improvements imminent. Image supplied by Zimborders

The border clearance time for trucks has been reduced from one or two days, to three or four hours, thanks to the modernisation and upgrade of facilities on the Zimbabwean side. The South African side is about to undergo a similar upgrade, which should further speed up transit times.

The crossing time for passenger vehicles and pedestrians has also been halved, from three or more hours, to 30 minutes or less depending on the traffic. This is a significant improvement for Beitbridge, which is a crucial trade link for southern Africa, with more than 500 trucks and over 14 000 travellers crossing daily. It is an essential route for exporters from Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi and Lubumbashi in the Democratic Republic of Congo, who have to cross two or three borders to reach the seaports of Durban or Maputo. This journey can take one or two weeks depending on the origin, and has caused a lot of frustration among commercial operators and logistics companies.

The hope of a thriving regional trade facilitated by smooth border crossings faded at the Beitbridge border crossing, forcing logistics operators to look for less troublesome alternatives, such as the Groblersbrug crossing between South Africa and Botswana. Those days may be over. The revamped Beitbridge border was inaugurated a year ago and eliminated the bottlenecks that made it notorious as the worst border crossing in Africa.

Now it is the best in Africa, by some margin, Rudolf Fourie, chair of JSE-listed construction group Raubex, told Moneyweb. In 2020, Raubex won the R3.3-billion public-private partnership (PPP) project to enlarge, upgrade and improve the border facility on the Zimbabwean side.

It was finished on time and within budget despite Covid disruptions, and added a lot to Raubex’s revenue and profit for the 2023 financial year. Most of the improvement in border-crossing times is due to simple design changes. Trucks, buses, light vehicles and pedestrians are divided into three traffic streams, where before there were two streams: one for freight and the other for everyone else.

Each stream has its own immigration terminal and supporting infrastructure. This has reduced queues on both sides of the border, as they no longer merge in overcrowded customs and immigration rooms, as was the case before. Other improvements have been made in simplifying the process of clearing traffic. Before, exporters had to go through a 19-step process that lasted hours. There was no data exchange between Zimbabwe and South Africa – something that has now been fixed.

This is still a step short of the ultimate goal of a one-stop border post, which will happen once South Africa finishes its planned upgrade of its own side of the Beitbridge border. A one-stop border will allow traffic to cross with a single stop rather than having to go through two sets of customs and immigration checkpoints on both sides of the border.

This is similar to the progress seen in 2009 when Zimbabwe and Zambia created a one-stop border at Chirundu on the Zambezi River, which reportedly cut wait times for trucks from 72 hours to three hours. That is a huge saving in transport costs and faster transit times.


Zimborders was awarded the border modernisation contract by the Zimbabwean government, with Raubex contracted to construct the new border facility buildings, a staff village of 220 houses, an animal quarantine centre, and a town reservoir and oxidation dam. They were also awarded a 17.5-year contract to maintain the facilities it has just built.

Border posts are notorious for corruption. Fourie points out that Beitbridge’s revenue has doubled in the last year, which seems to suggest corruption has significantly decreased since the opening of the border upgrade.

An article in the Southern African Journal of Policy and Development says the biggest constraint to logistics performance is proper border functioning, which is mainly concerned with border delays and standing time. Logistics companies attribute 60% of high and uncompetitive logistics costs to standing time.

What is perhaps most surprising is that it was the Zimbabwean rather than the South African government that initiated the border modernisation programme, though South Africa is now following through with similar programmes of its own.

Raubex CEO Felicia Msiza pointed to the success of the Beitbridge border upgrade as a sign of things to come for the group, which plans to tender for some of the six border upgrades recently announced by South Africa.