analysisBy Abel Mboozi
ZAMBIA has identified agriculture to drive the economy forward and this sector will only thrive if the country maintains a good road network and other infrastructure.
Agricultural products, which are mostly grown in the rural areas, require good roads to reach the markets.
The best and biggest markets for agriculture products are urban areas, which are situated several kilometers from the production points.
The provision of a good road infrastructure is also cardinal to the rapid socio-economic development of Zambia like many other countries.
The Government's efforts to improve the road network in Zambia have been unwavering.
On Friday last week, President Rupiah Banda commissioned works for the tarring of the 90-kilometre Isoka-Muyombe Road by the contractor China Jiangxi Corporation at a cost of K213, 808, 420, 485, 60 billion.
Tarring of the road is a reiteration of the importance that the Government attaches to infrastructure development in Zambia.
Recently President Banda commissioned yet another road project which involves the upgrading of over 100 kilometers of the Mumbwa-Landless corner Road.
Other major projects include the completion and commissioning of the Choma-Chitongo the Zimba-Livingstone all in Southern Province, commissioning works of the much talked about Mongu-Kalabo and the successful upgrading of the Mpongwe-Luansobe Road on the Copperbelt.
Like the Mongu-Kalabo Road project, the tarring of the Isoka-Muyombe Road has been on cards for many years and the fact that President Banda has under-taken to have it tarred offers a sigh of relief to the residents of Isoka District and Zambia at large.
The project would be under-taken over a period of two years and President Banda assured that he would soon launch similar road works for the extension of the project to cover the Chama-Lundazi stretch.
Its implementation will be wholly financed by the Zambian Government.
In total, the Isoka-Muyombe-Chama-Lundazi project covers a distance of approximately 393 Kilometers and it involves the up-grading of the existing gravel road to bituminous standard.
The president noted that the commencement of the implementation of the road project was a fulfillment of the Government's programme to construct, maintain, rehabilitate and up-grade roads country wide.
"The upgrading of this road has been out-standing for many years.
"There is nothing better than starting this year by commissioning a major project such as the Isoka-Muyombe-Chama-Lundazi," President Banda said.
In order to expedite work, the Government, through the Road Development Agency (RDA) decided to package the works into four separate contracts with lot one covering the Isoka junction road to Muyombe which has since been launched.
The remaining three lots would cover a distance of 303 kilometers and works would be commissioned in due course.
There is no doubt that benefits from this road project would be immense.
Firstly, the Isoka-Muyombe-Chama-Lundazi Road provides a direct link to Lusaka, Eastern, Western and southern parts of the country.
It provides the much needed link between Eastern, Northern and Copperbelt provinces of Zambia and apart from reducing the costs of travel and transportation, the upgrading of this road would reduce travel time for road users travelling from the north and eastern parts of Zambia to Lusaka and beyond.
"The new road will also reduce vehicles operating costs associated with the poor state of roads.
"The resultant effect of reduced costs of goods and services would automatically lead to improved health and an enhanced general lively-hood of the communities in Isoka," President Banda notes.
Economic sectors such as agriculture, tourism, trade and commerce would be boosted with the up-grading of the road.
To show the seriousness that President Banda attaches to national projects like that of the road infrastructure, he warned that his Government would not tolerate incidences of shoddy works and compromise of standards and specifications.
He would not allow tax payers' money to be misused through shoddy road works.
"The Government is keen to ensure that citizens of Zambia get value for their money and therefore the Road Development Agency (RDA) must ensure close monitoring and supervision of all road works being undertaken in Zambia so that they are implemented diligently," he says.
The road project would also play a cardinal role in the development of the new Mafinga District which the Republican president declared following several calls that he does so from chiefs and Isoka residents.
Isoka East Member of Parliament (MP) Catherine Namugala in whose constituency the road project was launched thanked President Banda for the initiative.
She said declaring Tendere sub-boma in Muyombe into a full district entailed that lives of women that died on their way to the hospital in Isoka would be saved.
"I urge you residents of Isoka, to continue supporting the works of President Banda and thank him forever for what he has done today by commissioning this road project as well as declaring Tendere sub Boma into a full district," Ms Namugala says.
The Isoka-Muyombe Road works have been outstanding for years and Ms Namugala expressed gratitude that finally the multi-billion project has finally taken off.
President Banda returned to Lusaka shortly after commissioning the road works.
"By creating Mafinga district, we know that we shall have a district hospital where the lives of our women that died on their way to Isoka district will now be preserved more so that the road is also being tarred," Ms Namugala said.
Northern Province Minister John Chinyanta had all the kind words for President Banda's Government over the projects.
"The commissioning of the road project has further sent President Banda's opponents millions of kilometres away from State House." Mr Chinyanta said.
He observed that the Government and President Banda's commitment to developmental projects in Zambia is unquestionable while Works and Supply Minister Mike Mulongoti said it was great that works on the road had commenced.
RDA chairperson Luambe Mondoloka assured that the agency had remained steadfast in supervising road projects in Zambia to ensure that such works were implemented to the satisfaction of the people as tax payers.
He said township roads in the district would be worked on by the same contractor engaged to tar the Isoka-Muyombe road.
RDA was also aware of the bad state in which the Serenje-Isoka Road is and to that effect the agency has since engaged contractors to patch bad spots on this Great North Road (GNR) and contractors would soon move on site.
China Jianxie Corporation has assured that his company would be undertaking diligent works on the road to benefit Isoka residents in a life time.
That a good road infrastructure is cardinal to accelerating socioe-conomic development, improving quality of life, creating jobs, bringing in stable income as well as providing access to social services can not be over emphasised.