By Africa Moyo
Japan has extended a $21 million grant aid to Zimbabwe for the improvement of steep gradients on the Makuti-Chirundu section of the North-South Corridor.
Finance and Economic Development Minister, Patrick Chinamasa, and Japanese Ambassador to Zimbabwe Mr Toshiyuki Iwado, signed the exchange notes on Tuesday this week.
Japanese grants are non-reimbursable funds availed to a recipient country to acquire products and/ or services for its economic and social development.
The $21 million is expected to be used to make the steep gradients on the Makuti-Chirundu highway navigable and eventually reduce accidents. In 2016, 110 accidents were recorded on the 6,5 kilometre long stretch that is now earmarked for refurbishment but after the safer design of the road, the prevalence rate of accidents is expected to decline to below 20 per year.
Large volumes of traffic including heavy vehicles transporting goods into Zambia and other East African countries, together with the Democratic Republic of Congo, use the road.
The scope of the project entails the construction of climbing lanes and the improvement of the horizontal and/ or vertical alignment, while sharp bends will also be addressed.
This is aimed at making the road smooth and safe for traffic flow.
Work on this stretch of the road is expected to be used as a model for the improvement of other steep sections of highway in the region.
Construction on the Makuti-Chirundu road is expected to start later this year while completion is set for early 2021.
About 250 jobs would be created by this project, which would be implemented by the Department of Roads (DoR) in the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure Development, under the supervision of Japanese highway engineers. Japanese engineers are expected to share their experiences and expertise gained from highway construction in Japan’s mountainous terrain.
The DoR has proven its mettle in road construction after it did large parts of the Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo Expressway which leads to the Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport.
Augur Investments was supposed to have constructed the road but couldn’t finish it due to squabbles. Currently, DoR is dualising the Harare-Mutare and the Harare-Bulawayo highways.
Government has so far released about $5 million for the dualisation of the two major highways.