INNOVATIVE IDEAS FOR ZAMBIAN ROAD MAINTENANCE SHORTFALL
The government of Zambia has invested over $5 billion on road development since 2006, with 75% of that being spent over the last five years, the Zambian Daily Mail has reported.
However, this investment needs to be backed up by a significant commitment to road maintenance, with figures of $721 million annually being predicted in 2012’s Road Development Agency report.
In the light of a lack of funding to bridge this gap, the Zambian Government has undertaken a tolling programme which may see some of the shortfall realised.
According to Alphonsius Hamachila, public relations manager for the NRFA, targets set for collection of tolls at ports of entry, borders, weigh bridges and toll plazas has exceed initial expectations, collecting $68 million in 2017 against a target of $69 million. This represents 98% achievement of the target adn an improvement of 51% on the 2016 collections.
“We have continued to increase the road tolling footprint across the country. In addition to the 10 inland toll stations currently under operation in Lusaka, Central, Copperbelt, Muchinga and Luapula provinces, we shall soon commence tolling at three toll stations in Western Province between Kaoma and Mongu, Mongu and Kalabo, and between Senanga and Sesheke. In Eastern Province, two toll stations are nearing completion between Nyimba and Petauke; and between Katete and Chipata,” Hamachila said.
“We shall also commence tolling soon at Kyabankaka Toll Plaza at Mutanda junction in North-Western Province. Other toll plazas are being constructed between Ndola and Kitwe, Kitwe and Chingola and Chingola and Solwezi. We envision to have 40 toll plazas of different sizes at the end of the construction period,” he continued.
According to Hamachila, a “toll or other charges imposed for the use of a toll road and collected by the Agency shall be from part of the road fund and shall be used exclusively for the construction, maintenance and rehabilitation of public roads in Zambia.”
Hamachila confirmed that more than K500 million has been spent on maintenance. Additionally, the NRFA spent K730 million of tolls revenue for road rehabilitation and upgrading.
Hamachila believes that the strong systems and controls in place have instilled trust in the programme, saying that “the NRFA has invested in state-of-the-art toll systems with video transactions for every transaction. This system is open to audits on the collections made against all video transaction records.”
Other countries in sub Saharan Africa, including Kenya, Malawi and Namibia have visited Zambia in order to learn about their tolling programme.
During a recent visit by members of the African Road Maintenance Funds Association Southern Africa Focal Group (ASAFAG), Finance Minister Margaret Mwanakatwe called on road funds in southern Africa to “think outside the box and explore innovative financing solutions for road infrastructure development.”
She cautioned that road funds were entrusted with a huge resource envelope which was not enough to bridge the widening gap for road maintenance and said that innovative solutions must therefore be explored.
“Road tolling in Zambia is still in its infancy but from the time the programme commenced in 2013 to date, $220 million has been raised from which we have financed major road projects, including the ongoing construction of the Kazungula bridge at the border between Zambia, Zimbabwe and Botswana.”