Editor's Comment

Luangwa Bridge offer timely


THAT the Japanese government has pledged to construct a bridge across Luangwa River on the Great East Road to replace the current rather old one is an opportunity which Zambia should quickly seize, considering the advantages that will come along with the project.
Not only is the structure a vital access point within the country for the Eastern Province, it also provides a link to Mozambique, which is about two kilometres away, and Zimbabwe (about 60km from the bridge) and Malawi much farther.
It is 250km from the nearest city, Lusaka, and is located in a remote area, where its approaches have to contend with steep rugged slopes and deep ravines covered in forest or thick bush. Part of its history is that, since it was first built in 1932 through Beit Trust’s support, it twice suffered destruction as revenge by colonialists because of Zambia’s support for her neighbouring countries’ freedom fighters.
The current suspended Luangwa Bridge was rehabilitated under a project of the National Road Fund Agency funded by Danish Aid. Now, the fact that the flow of traffic is extremely slow at this bridge, as it only allows one vehicle to cross at a time, puts the country at a disadvantage, economic-wise. Road infrastructure is important in terms of enhancing trade, both within the country and on an international level.
We commend Japan for also indicating that it is willing to give this country a grant for the successful implementation of the project, which is bound to further boost the ‘Growth Triangle’ – the trade ties between Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique.
As a gateway to the port of Nacala in Mozambique, its construction will have to be done with a view to increasing the flow of traffic and boosting trade. No doubt, this will attract importers and exporters of various goods who will use it as an alternative route with regard to their transportation needs. The reconstructed bridge will completely resolve the problem of one-way traffic on this part of the Great North Road.
It will also help haulers to save costs as the distance to the sea will now be shorter compared to some routes that require them to pass through two or more countries to and from the sea ports. Actually, Luangwa Bridge is a vital part of the Nacala Road Corridor Project (NRCP), which covers about 1,033km of roads in Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique and two one-stop border posts.
Its reconstruction by Japan will help to achieve the NRCP’s aim of supporting economic growth in the Southern African Development Community (SADC), as well as fostering regional integration through reliable, efficient and seamless transport infrastructure which enhances the global competitiveness of the region, in addition to increasing sub-regional trade.
Such developments should be supported as they make roads in the region assume more significance, especially with the establishment of the SADC Free Trade Area, whose objectives include liberalising intra-regional trade in goods and services and enhancing industrialisation of the region.
During the period when the project will be undertaken, local people will benefit in terms of jobs that will be created by contractors. Local suppliers of different construction materials and goods and services needed in the process will be empowered, too. Therefore, Luangwa district will not only experience socio-economic development, but poverty alleviation as well.
Zambia should take advantage of Japan’s gesture of goodwill; that country is ready to provide a grant and build a new, larger, reliable and economically beneficial bridge across Luangwa River. Government should quickly start engaging all stakeholders in this important venture.
We also urge Japanese Ambassador to Zambia Hidenobu Sobashima to quicken the process of formally confirming to Government Japan’s commitment towards building the bridge, as directed by that country’s Deputy Minister of Lands, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, Yoshiyuki Aoki.
This infrastructure development will further enhance relations not only between Zambia and Japan, but also between that country and all other nations in the SADC region.

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