A 184-kilometer toll road to link Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo to existing road networks and ports in Tanzania is finally under construction.

Zambia President Hakainde Hichilema and DRC President Felix Tshisekedi led the Oct. 2 groundbreaking ceremony for the more than $700-million project, paving the way for the two nations to have a shorter route to their main gateway to the international market, the Tanzanian port of Dar es Salaam.

Work on the Kasomeno-Kasenga-Chalwe-Mwenda toll road includes upgrading some sections of an existing alignment into a dual-lane roadway and constructing a new stretch, including approaches for a proposed 345-meter single pylon, cable-stayed bridge over the Luapula River at the Zambia-DRC border. 

This bridge is designed to have more than 400 km of cable strands. Mauritius-based GED Africa, which is the lead contractor on the project, backed by Duna Aszfalt Zrt., the Hungarian construction division of Duna Group, says at least 8,000 cu m of excavation will be carried out during the span’s construction.

KasomenoMwendaTollRoadProjectGED.pngThe toll road will provide a crucial link into existing road networks leading to eastern ports. Map graphic courtesy GED Africa

The road project will, when completed, reduce by 500 km the distance for commercial truckers between DRC’s cobalt-rich Haut-Katanga province and the port of Dar es Salaam through Zambia.

Currently, mineral exports, including cobalt, titanium and copper from DRC, and agricultural products from Zambia are transported by truck via the heavily congested Kasumbalesa border crossing, which also handles international traffic to and from seaports in Mozambique, Namibia, Tanzania and South Africa. Sitting at the crossroads of major transportation routes, the border crossing is one of the busiest in sub-Saharan Africa and a bottleneck for international trade.

The planned roadway is set to have a 100-kph design speed. Other work on the project includes installation of a tolling system, including 12 high-speed weigh-in-motion devices. One-stop border posts will also be constructed on both the Zambia and DRC sides of the crossing, with associated warehousing and parking facilities.

The road project was conceived in 2012 through an unsolicited proposal from GED Africa Zambia Ltd., an affiliate of GED Africa. In 2016 the company signed a concessions agreement with Zambia for the financing, design, build, operate and tolling of the road under a public-private-partnership model.  

Late last year, GED Africa has, through its GED Congo subsidiary, signed a 25-year concession agreement for the new road with the DRC government. Zambia renewed its six-year-old concession deal with the company a few months later.

Agreements with DRC’s state agency for public works, Agence Congolaise des Grands Travaux, and Zambia’s Road Development Agency, include a clause that provides for domestic contractors to perform at least 30% of the construction work. 

“The Kasomeno-Mwenda toll road project is perfectly positioned to facilitate local trade and unlock the region’s potential through enhanced access to international markets through East African ports,” said Klaus Findt, GED Africa’s CEO.