Editor's Comment

Zambia on right track

MINISTER of Housing and Infrastructure Development Ronald Chitotela (left) with Permanent Secretary Charles Mushota (middle inspecting Great North Road in Lusaka recently. PICTURE: COLLINS PHIRI

THIS must be a big relief for users of the Great North Road, especially the stretch from Mpika to the border town of Nakonde: Financiers have been found for the upgrading and expansion of the 372kms of this key road.The Great North Road is one of the country’s lifelines as it is critical for regional integration in the Southern African Development Community (SADC), as well as the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA).
So to effectively facilitate the movement of people and goods, a good and durable road network is inevitable.
It is commendable, therefore, that the European Investment Bank (EIB) appreciates the economic value of the Great North Road by giving Zambia a 110 million euros concessional loan for upgrading and expanding the route.
Since the Patriotic Front government embarked on a robust road construction, rehabilitation and expansion programme, significant improvements have been made to roads in many parts of the country. Clearly, a lot more will be done as evidenced by the latest development. Part of the Great North Road earmarked for upgrading and expansion is the Chinsali-Nakonde stretch which has deteriorated to the detriment of an economic road and a major link between southern Africa and East Africa.
This is the gateway to the port of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, a key exit and entry of goods needed for Zambia’s sustainable socio-economic development.
The bad state of the road has adversely affected businesses at all levels. The slow pace of distribution of raw materials affects productivity in companies. Costs also go up because the wear and tear of vehicles increase.
The risk of theft of goods in transit also goes up as does the risk of accidents.
All these dangers will, or should, be significantly reduced when the road is rehabilitated.
Beyond upgrading and expanding the road, there should be spillover benefits such as temporary jobs that will be created for the local people along the stretch.
The road will facilitate quick movement of goods and people, especially farmers, traders and other road users as they would quickly reach their destinations, deal with their business or activities and return to their places.
With a good road comes entrepreneurship as people along the route will harness their business acumen as it will be motivation for the development of backward and forward integrated business linked to major import/export routes such as rest houses and truck stops.
Local contractors and suppliers will be offered opportunities during construction.
Ease of movement also attracts development to areas that are already built and natural attendant developments and businesses ensue from there.
As the roads are being rehabilitated, it is also important that efforts are reinforced to ensure that maintenance is done and sustained.
Too often good efforts go to waste just too quickly because of poor or no maintenance at all. This is why some roads erode just too quickly and the country has to sooner rather than later begin to look for money again to rehabilitate the roads.
Fortunately, Zambia has toll gates through which millions of Kwacha are being collected. Continued prudent reinvestment in roads should take care of this concern.
Zambia is on the right track.

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