The “Quadripoint” Area

June 20, 2021
IMA Research Team

By Zander Bamford-Brown

The Kazungula Bridge, as if out of a fairytale, crosses the Zambezi River in a place that does not exist, at least not according to most maps. It is not in some remote mountainous area nor is it a unimportant bridge; it is the sole border crossing between Botswana and Zambia. Their border, nestled between Namibia and Zimbabwe on the Zambezi River, is the shortest in the world. It is so short that it can’t be depicted on smaller scale maps. 

An oblique perspective of the completed Kazungula Bridge taken from a plain leaving a Namibian airport. Image from Wikipedia.

Instead of depicting the Botswana–Zambia border, maps will instead show a single point where the countries of Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, and Zimbabwe allegedly meet. This has led to the border being called a ‘quadripoint area,’ because it is currently the closest thing on earth to a quadripoint international boundary (where four countries meet). Though many maps, and the term quadripoint area, negate the presence of the Botswana–Zambia border, it does in fact exist.

A map of the Quadripoint Area. The bridge, which was under construction at the time of this imagery, has now been completed.

The 135 meters (443 feet) of river, just enough to fit the Kazungula Bridge, creates an economic block, disrupting trade between Zimbabwe and Namibia. Any travel between the two nations must first go through another country. Conversely, the Kazungula Bridge allows free trade between Zambia and Botswana. This has been a matter of contention for Zimbabwe. Before the construction of the bridge, most Botswana–Zambia trade was moved through Zimbabwe and was taxed by the government. The construction of the bridge, which was completed during the COVID-19 pandemic and opened in May 2021, once both nations reopened their border, means that Zimbabwe will lose that revenue. However, since the boundary is not a true quadripoint, Zimbabwe does not have the power to stop two nations from building a bridge over their shared border. 

For more information on the five international boundaries that meet at the “Quadripoint,” check out our Boundaries pages:

Botswana–Namibia, Botswana–Zambia, Botswana–Zimbabwe, Namibia–Zambia, and Zambia–Zimbabwe.

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