Image: ENR Art Dept.
Zimbabwe is moving forward on a $2.6-billion plan to upgrade as much as 40% of its existing road system.

Despite facing international economic sanctions and $10 billion in national debt, the government of Zimbabwe is seeking private financing for a $2.6-billion plan aimed at rehabilitating an estimated 40% of the country’s 80,000-kilometer road network.

The government’s plan calls for $985.9 million in improvements to primary, secondary and tertiary road networks, $924 million for widening to two lanes existing one-way trunk roads and $715 million of urban road rehabilitation.

Zimbabwe’s treasury department has allocated $94.5 million in the current financial year toward the rehabilitation. However, the government has yet to release an implementation plan or bidding schedule for the road program.

“Given the limited support from state resources, the bulk of the financing for the road rehabilitation program will necessitate the participation of private capital through [public-private partnerships] and joint-venture initiatives,” Finance Minister Tendai Biti said in early January.

Zimbabwe officials are in talks with the Development Bank of South Africa (DBSA) and the African Development Bank (ADB) about possible financing. DBSA reportedly has approved $206 million toward the rehabilitation of an 801-km main road linking Zimbabwe to Botswana. ADB, meanwhile, has committed to funding a study of some of the roads earmarked for rehabilitation.

Public-private partnerships will be used for the widening of the one-way roads, while rehabilitation and maintenance of other roads will be funded from the national budget as well as revenue collected by the Zimbabwe National Road Authority from vehicle license fees. More critically, the country added, in 2009, 22 toll gates to some major roads, with each generating an estimated $1.3 million per month, the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority reports.

To attract private-sector financing, Minister Biti said Zimbabwe will establish an autonomous road authority that will be managed under a public-private partnership that will plan road development, maintenance and rehabilitation. Further, the country is seeking to implement a more open and competitive bidding process as opposed to the current one, which is tightly controlled and influenced by government.