Good road network is vital for economic development

Takudzwa Chada

Roads are the arteries through which the economy pulses. By linking producers to markets, workers to jobs, students to school, and the sick to hospitals, roads are vital to any development agenda. In today’s globally interconnected economy, it is without adoubt that good roads are enablers

to economic prosperity. Pro-growth economic environment cannot be created without the essential physical infrastructure that aids mobility of people, products and information. As the world is becoming increasingly networked, interdependent and service oriented, the capacities to transact business efficiently, speedily, safely and with ease are becoming more and more important to economic development, social cohesion and cultural revival. This is the reason that the New Dispensation led by President Emmerson Mnangagwa prioritized road construction and rehabilitation.

Since the advent of the Second Republic, resources were mobilized and channeled towards road rehabilitation. The roads construction and rehabilitation was done in fulfillment of the ZANU PF 2018 election manifesto that had a target to dualise the Beitbridge-Harare-Chirundu; Beitbridge-Bulawayo-Victoria Falls; and Kwekwe-Nkayi roads. The same manifesto also had promised to ensure that the District Development Fund (DDF) rehabilitate at least 3 bridges and re-gravels 300km of roads per year in all rural provinces from 2018 to 2023.All this is being done and we are all witnesses to the upgrading and modernization of  our roads currently happening across the country.

After President Mnangagwa had realized the importance of good road network for economic development, a lot of funds were mobilized to fund the reconstruction of the Harare-Masvingo-Beitbridge Highway, while other funds were directed towards the rehabilitation of dozens of major roads in the country’s urban centres.

But why is President Mnangagwa prioritizing roads rehabilitation? The first reason is that good roads are critical in luring investors. That investors cannot access some parts of the country because of the bad state of roads is a nightmare. It is not a secret that for any economy to develop, distribution and consumption must increase. It is an obvious fact that without good road networks, distribution and consumption cannot increase, even if population keeps growing. This is the reason the Government introduced the Emergency Road Rehabilitation Programme (ERRP).The Government took over almost 700km of roads from urban local authorities which would be rehabilitated ERRP. The road rehabilitation project is among pledges made by ZANU PF in its 2018 Election Manifesto and progress made so far is in fulfillment of the promise.

To show its commitment to improve our road networks, in 2021, Government resolved that all roads in the country be declared a state of disaster. The declaration facilitated the release of resources for the repair and rehabilitation of all roads that required such works. 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 in our roads, the Zimbabwean government embarked on a national road reconstruction blitz that has seen many of the country’s roads being upgraded or rehabilitated. What is again pleasing about the road rehabilitation programme currently going on in the country is that 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. Five local companies were contracted to upgrade the Harare-Masvingo-Beitbridge Highway which are Tensor Systems, Masimba Holdings, Fossil Contracting, Exodus Company and Bitumen World.

Moreover, visible progress has been seen on major such as 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 included the construction of Mbudzi traffic interchange to ease congestion at the country’s busiest traffic circle.

The ongoing upgrade of the Harare-Masvingo-Beitbridge Highway into a modern road by the Second Republic has now seen a total of 370km being opened to traffic, with many other roads being reconstructed countrywide. The Harare-Masvingo-Beitbridge Highway is the centerpiece of the road programme and even then will be matched by the Chirundu-Harare Highway, to form Zimbabwe's 897km Chirundu-Beitbridge section of the TransAfrica Highway of 10 228km beginning in Cape Town and ending in Cairo.

Since the coming in of the New Dispensation, over 2 000km of roads have been re-graveled, while 6 627,9km have been graded with 701 drainage structures constructed or repaired and 184 wash-aways reclaimed. This shows that the Government is serious on improving him roads and reducing the number of road accidents that are caused by poor roads.

If one looks around, he would realize that President’s Mnangagwa’s mantra of leaving no one and no place behind in terms of development is not just a political rhetoric but a Government policy. With the pace of how our roads are being improved, I foresee Zimbabwe being the country with the best road network among other SADC and African countries.