By JOWITSALUSEKI and MUSONDAMANGILASHI –
The last few years have seen a rapid deterioration of Zambia’s main highways.
The Great North Road has seen its fair share of damage.
Long stretches of rutted roads and narrow winding diversions are a challenge in both day and night time driving.
The stretch between Chibombo and Ndola is one that is currently in a deplorable condition.
Yet, this is a highway that is of economic importance to the country as the road not only takes traffic into five of Zambia’s 10 provinces but also connects to neighbouring countries such as Congo DR, Angola and Tanzania.
Owing to the poor state of the road, many travelers and motorists have been complaining about the deplorable state of the Lusaka–Ndola highway.
Accidents have been a daily occurrence especially in Chibombo and Masaiti areas.
It is against this background that the government has signed the long awaited upgrade of the 327-kilometre Ndola-Lusaka dual carriageway under a 25-year concession deal with Macro-Oceans Investment Consortium Limited (MOIC-LN) to cost US$577.38 million.
This has elated many stakeholders.
Maxwell Mbazima, a local transporter, said the business community was elated that government had moved in to repaire the road because it had deteriorated remarkably.
Speaking on behalf of others Masaiti residents, Veronica Banda hailed the current government for ensuring that what was promised during the 2021 elections has come to pass.
“The project will not only create jobs for the local people but will ease the movement of goods and services in the region,” Ms Banda said.
Similar sentiments were expressed by George Mambwe, a peasant farmer of Masangano area of the Copperbelt.
Senior Chief Nkambo who spoke on behalf of chiefs from the Copperbelt and Central province was thankful for the project and appealed to the contractor to engage the locals and purchase raw materials like sand from the locals.
The traditional leader was elated that around 3,000 direct jobs would be created during the construction phase, with 20 per cent of the works being reserved for the local contractors.
The scope of the project would cover the rehabilitation of 45 km of the Luanshya-Fisenge-Masangano road, construction of the Kabwe and Kapiri-Mposhi bypasses, construction of two weigh-bridges, two toll plazas and expansion of existing bridges.
Infrastructure, Housing and Urban Development Minister Charles Milupi said the 25-year concession period entailed three years for the construction of the dual carriageway and 22 years for operations and maintenance.
Mr Milupi said the project was expected to accrue a further US$72.5 million in working capital, interest and other costs, while the Government and the concessionaire were expected to share revenue over a 23-year period of operation and maintenance.
He said the Government was desirous of promoting investment and participation of the private sector in the development and maintenance of the transport infrastructure in the country.
Mr Milupi said the transport sector was critical to economic growth as it facilitated commerce and trade of goods and services.
“The demand for road infrastructure development in the country remained high, while the resource envelope was not adequate to bridge the financing gap for road construction, rehabilitation and maintenance works.
In order to overcome the constraints imposed by limited financial resources, the New Dawn government intends to construct, rehabilitate high traffic roads using the Public Private Partnership (PPP) financing model,” Mr Milupi said.
He said the Government had this year planned to have critical road projects implemented under the PPP model.
He said the model was intended to provide relief financially by allowing the private sector to collaborate with the Government by investing in public infrastructure and receiving compensation in the form of toll fees for a set period of time called the ‘concession period’.
“The project will cost US$649. 97 million and this is broken down as follows: US$ 577.38 million total cost of construction, US$1 million as working capital, US$1.84 million as finance costs; and US$69.74 million for interest during the construction period.
“Since the project will be financed using the PPP model, the government will not spend even a cent or provide sovereign guarantee.
Furthermore, for the whole concessional period, the government will not spend any money on maintenance of the road but during the concessional period, the government will be receiving a share of the generated revenues and shall be receiving applicable taxes over the operations and maintenance phase,” he said.
Finance and National Planning Minister Situmbeko Musokotwane warned that threats to the profitability of the road through increased maintenance costs during the concession period could result in increased toll fees.
Dr Musokotwane also cautioned those in the habit of constructing structures on the road after hearing that the project had commenced with the view that they would be compensated that those structures would be demolished because the government had already captured all the structures along the road.
He urged the subcontractors that would benefit from the project to ensure that they delivered quality works.
Transport and Logistics Minister Frank Tayali said the Ndola-Lusaka road already carries more than 10, 000 vehicles daily and was expected to carry more traffic as both the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Zambia endeavoured to ramp up annual copper production by one million and three million tonnes respectively.
Consortium senior consultant Lei Yingji said he hoped that the financial negotiations for the project could be concluded within six months for the project to commence within the three years construction period.
Mr Lei assured of high quality work on the project and that it would endeavour to engage local people.
UPND deputy secretary General Gertrude Imenda said the ruling party has defiled all odds to ensure that the Ndola-Lusaka road was worked on.
“This is a major milestone achievement for our party. We commend the President for ensuring our campaign promises are being filled. This is what it means to work for the people. To create jobs that will help reduce poverty,” she said.
The project-cost is far less than the staggering US$1.2 billion that the Patriotic Front (PF) wanted to spend on the project under a PPP model.