Harare - The much-awaited dualisation and tolling of the busy Harare-Beitbridge road may finally take place after Zimbabwe's department of roads commissioned Royal Haskoning DHV to conduct a feasibility study for the improvement of the road.
The Harare-Beitbridge road provides more than five southern African countries with a gateway to Africa's biggest economy - South Africa.
This is evidenced by cargo and mining equipment moved via Zimbabwe from South Africa to Zambia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Malawi and beyond.
Due to Zimbabwe's position as a strategic thoroughfare and regional hub, the north-south corridor - of which the Harare-Beitbridge stretch is an important part - is considered to be of crucial importance.
The road is the busiest highway in the country and a critical economic resource as it facilitates high volumes of trade.
The construction of the road itself will create massive economic activity, as local companies are expected to clinch lucrative deals. The anticipated involvement of local communities could act as a huge stimulus for the struggling local economy.
Royal HaskoningDHV (formerly SSI Engineers & Environmental Consultants) is expected to conduct a feasibility study for the improvement of the road, to determine the viability of its construction and tolling.
The company's project manager Phil Hasluck explains that the study, which will be carried out in association with five Zimbabwean partner firms, involves traffic studies, development of a toll strategy, engineering analysis and concept design, and environmental impact scoping.
It will also encompass an economic feasibility study, financial modelling and reparation of draft project information memorandum for investors.
“The road carries between 1 000 and 5 000 vehicles per day, with the heavier flows in the proximity of Harare. Of significance is the fact that a high proportion of this traffic is trucks carrying goods, equipment and machinery needed to support the Zimbabwean economic recovery,” says Hasluck.
The anticipated cost of rehabilitating and improving the road is in excess of US$600m, some of which will be funded as a loan against revenue from the tolls.
The feasibility project is urgently required to provide an indication of viability as interested funders - the Development Bank of Southern Africa and the African Development Bank – need to make a decision about committing funding by March.
Market watchers believe Zimbabwe could be primed for further economic growth, if there are further projects and works of this magnitude.