Government has set aside $1,7 billion to decongest urban centres as part of transport infrastructure development at a time high traffic congestion has become a cause for concern.
Most urban centres are having traffic congestion due to increased vehicular traffic and inadequate infrastructure such as bypasses to guide traffic away from city centres.
The $1,7 billion fund will target specific routes in Harare and Bulawayo such as Mbudzi Overpass Detours, Lomagundi Road and Esigodini Road.
Of recent, businesses have been vacating central business districts (CBD) for office parks and residential areas leaving commercial properties battling high voids. One of the challenges businesses cited points to high traffic congestion in the CBD, outdated infrastructure systems, lawlessness especially by illegal transport operators and vendors, which have all added to the general decay of CBDs, Harare in particular.
This has also been cited as a cause for concern by potential investors, calling for authorities to embark on urban renewal programmes that may restore the allure of the urban centers.
Transport infrastructure enhances the competitiveness of an investment destination as well as improve connectivity for people when they undertake productive activities and access social services.
In addressing the high congestion in the urban centres, Finance and Economic Development Minister Professor Mthuli Ncube said a comprehensive plan is required to identify and implement road infrastructure improvements needed to address the current transport bottlenecks in urban centres.
Conducive transport infrastructure is a key enabler for trade and general economic growth.
“Quality transport systems, require roads, rail and airports that connect people and commerce to markets, as well as reduce travel times and cost of business,” said Professor Ncube in the 2021 Zimbabwe Infrastructure Investment Programme.
“Government is developing a plan, targeting Harare, including innovative funding options to finance road infrastructure improvements in the city,” he said.
According to Treasury, a road network of approximately 91,667 kms requires US$3 billion in new investments to enable recovery of the asset and address congestion in major cities, toll gates and at border posts.
Road authorities will also require recapitalization in the form of additional technical staff and equipment.
Meanwhile, regravelling of feeder roads and related bridge construction works have been allocated $928 million that will be implemented by the District Development Fund (DDF).
During the year, four road authorities, that is will Rural District Councils, Urban Councils, Department of Roads and DDF will receive additional funding for road maintenance works, amounting to $4,8 billion, through the Road Fund managed by ZINARA.
Of the $4,8 billion, urban local authorities will get the highest allocation of $1,4 billion followed by the Department of Roads that will receive $1,3 billion while rural district councils and DDF will get $1,1 billion and $867 million respectively.
Professor Ncube said: “Through the Inter-Governmental Fiscal Transfers allocation, local authorities will channel resources for construction and maintenance of badly damaged roads under their purview.
“Consistent with the thrust to increase local content in the delivery of road projects, contractors will be required to use local resources within communities they operate under such as labour and materials, that way, providing incomes and stimulating economic activity at the local level.”
In 2020, road works were stalled by the outbreak of the COVID 19 pandemic which plunged the country into various levels of lockdowns.
Disbursement of funds from the Road Fund was delayed due to COVID 19 induced disturbances. However, over $400 million from the Road Fund was disbursed to the four road authorities as part of efforts to rehabilitate roads.
Road Fund, which is managed by ZINARA, is to collect road user fees such as fuel levy, transit fees and abnormal or overload fees that are disbursed to road authorities to undertake road maintenance, rehabilitation and upgrading.