Zimbabwe is embarking on massive reconstruction and rehabilitation of major road networks to enhance domestic and regional connectivity and spur economic growth.
The country’s road network of highways and urban roads had fallen into disrepair after two decades of economic development.
Given that roads are economic arteries, the rehabilitation of highways in the country is expected to lay a strong foundation for development through the smooth flow of both domestic and regional trade.
To address the road decay, the Zimbabwean government declared the country’s road network a state of disaster, and has since embarked on a national road reconstruction blitz that has seen many of the country’s roads being upgraded or rehabilitated.
Reconstruction works are being conducted mostly using locally mobilized resources, and are being undertaken by local contractors.
Major roads being worked on include the rehabilitation of the Chirundu-Harare-Beitbridge highway, which starts in Beitbridge in the south on the border with South Africa, passes through Harare, and extends to Chirundu to the north on the border with Zambia.
Part of the project includes the construction of a traffic interchange along the highway in the south of the capital which is expected to ease congestion at the country’s busiest traffic circle.
The project is also expected to promote the ease of doing business and trade facilitation between Zimbabwe and the southern African region.
Apart from reconstructing and upgrading major highways across the country, the Zimbabwean government is also rehabilitating urban roads that had become pothole riddled.
Last year the government made a commitment to repair a road network of about 26,000 kilometers under the Emergency Road Rehabilitation Program (ERRP).
Analysts say infrastructural development, which includes roads rehabilitation, is key in attracting both domestic and foreign investments.
“The rapid and accelerated infrastructure development, the construction of dams, and the construction of roads is something that is actually key because a country requires good infrastructure for it to attract investment,” said Denford Mutashu, President of the Confederation of Zimbabwe Retailers.
“And the country is now attracting investment coming from the east, coming from Africa, and also even local investors that have taken a decision to invest in the country,” Mutashu told SAT.
Eddie Cross, an economic analyst and former member of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) Monetary Policy Committee, said infrastructure development is key in driving growth.
“Infrastructure investment is important from a national point of view in the sense that it creates jobs and also has a high multiplier effect back into the rest of the economy.”
While he applauded the road rehabilitation drive, Cross reiterated the need for the private sector to work hand-in-glove with the government in infrastructure development projects.
“In my view these major regional roads ought to be funded by the transit traffic which is currently using that road and that domestic resources should be employed to maintain and improve the secondary road system both in rural and urban areas,” he told The Southern African Times.
The move to rehabilitate major highways has been welcomed by motorists as major highways had become too narrow to accommodate vehicular traffic, thereby becoming death traps.
Harare resident Lazarus Sauti lauded the road rehabilitation and expansion drive saying it has improved both local and regional trade.
In addition, he said the program made it easier for the transportation of people and goods as a good road network enhances traveling, besides creating employment for local people.
“Local contractors are being used for the road repairs and that is creation of employment thereby empowering communities and taking families out of abject poverty and some are now able to educate their children,” he said.