The Improved Rural Connectivity Project (IRCP) costing US$200 million has been launch by Zambia’s Head of State President Edgar Lungu.
During the launch which was recently held at Fiwila Mission grounds in Mkushi District, President Lungu said it has come at the best time as it is a value addition to the living standards of the people in the rural areas and ultimately to the development of the country.
“The project is in addition to other equally important major programmes that were at different levels of implementation in the road sector. One such programme under implementation is aimed at improving inter-urban and urban connectivity and accessibility,” said the President.
Since 2012, the Government embarked on several programmes including Link Zambia 8000, Pave Zambia 2000 and the engineering design, rehabilitation and construction of selected Lusaka urban roads which is well known as the Lusaka 400 or L400.
The development objective of the IRCP is to improve rural road accessibility for communities in selected areas in Zambia and to strengthen institutional capacity for sustainable management of rural roads, and in the event of an eligible crisis or emergency, respond promptly and effectively to the crisis or emergency.
“The primary beneficiaries of the project are road users whose travel time and transport cost would be reduced as a result of infrastructure improvements. Currently, much of the primary feeder road network is poorly maintained and connectivity is hampered by unreliability of transport services, slow vehicle operating speeds, high vehicle maintenance costs, poor road safety, and reduced travel comfort.
“Specifically, the beneficiaries will be rural farmers who will have improved access to inputs and markets. The rural communities in general will have better access to health, education and other services,” said the Head of State.
President Lungu commended the World Bank for partnering with the Government of the Republic of Zambia by contributing US$ 200 million to the programme.
And speaking at the same event, World Bank Group Country Director Mr. Paul Noumba Um announced that the Project was a Scale up Facility provided as additional development support to well performing Middle- Income Countries.
“This is indeed a special occasion for the World Bank where we established several firsts in our engagement with the Republic of Zambia. This project and its design remain relevant for Zambia as it is aligned to the National Development Plan. It stands out as a first and it does not have to be the last Scale up Facility for Zambia,” Paul said.
Speaking at the very event, Housing and Infrastructure Development Minister Hon. Ronald Chitotela said the rural connectivity project would be implemented countrywide.
Chitotela announced that once connectivity was improved, it was expected that agriculture production and trade within the beneficiary communities would increase.
The Head of State has directed Road Development Agency to ensure that all Contractors when employing workers on the project consider locals first.
The IRCP is aimed at improving the feeder road network in Central, Eastern, Luapula, Muchinga, Northern and Southern provinces.
IRCP is expected to generate about 25,000 direct job opportunities for Zambians especially the young men and women.