DOOMSDAY prophets always mention a certain road 'connecting' the Southern tip of Africa to the continent's North-most peninsula as 'an important battlefield corridor' in the 'war of Armageddon!'
They figure that, South Africa, which is the continent's industrial and technological powerhouse, will be supplying the weaponry that have to be shipped by the road, to the Northern frontline where the prophesied 'World War III' should be taking place during 'end' days ... or something.
The apocalyptic preachers probably refer to the highway, cutting across Africa, which has for years been known as 'The Great North Road,' and coincidentally passes through Tanzania. So, when the Tanzanian Head of State, Mr Jakaya Kikwete, recently flagged off the constructions of the nearly 100 kilometres long road section of the Arusha- Dodoma road, last week, 'the great north road' mention was rekindled.
The ongoing road works which Mr Kikwete inaugurated, are meant to upgrade the road section linking Arusha City to the Minjingu junction, where the region borders Manyara. Funded by the World Bank through the Government of Tanzania, the over 75 billion project is expected to take 900 days counted from the first day of construction, according to Engineer Deusdedit Kakoko, the Regional Manager for Tanzania Roads Network Agency.
The Project is being undertaken by a French Construction firm, M/s Sogea Satom. The President later inaugurated the adjoining corridor; the already completed section of the same Cape- Town to Cairo road, linking Minjingu junction and the Babati Township of Manyara region, which extends to Singida via Dareda.
But there is more to come. "We have already mobilized resources for the construction of Babati to Kondoa (Irangi) road which will again join onto the Dodoma-Kondoa highway," said President Kikwete, adding that with a further link connecting Dodoma and Iringa (nearly to be completed), soon Arusha will be connected to Lusaka (Zambia) with a straight, high-quality tarmac road.
"People feeling like travelling from Arusha to South Africa by road will no longer be compelled to go through Korogwe, Chalinze and Morogoro; they will just use the Babati, Dodoma and Iringa corridor," added the president. From Lusaka, the road will extend on to the Cape, via Zimbabwe, while the Northern section is to be connected to Cairo via Arusha, Nairobi (Kenya), Ethiopia, et cetera.
The concept of a pan- African road linking Cape to Cairo can be traced back to the colonial times that is to about 1890, when the founder of the Rhodesian state, Mr Cecil Rhodes, hatched the idea of building such an ambitious, multinational corridor. While the Arusha to Babati road is almost done, the upgrading work has begun on the section of the 'great north' which links Dodoma to Mayamaya.
Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda earlier on had inaugurated the 44 km stretch, which is being surfaced with tarmac. The road runs through the centre of the country and will be linking Mbeya and Iringa regions to Dodoma while the latter gets connected to Manyara and Arusha before continuing to Nairobi Kenya. Work on the road between Dodoma and Manyara started in June 2010 and is expected to be complete by September 2013.
Chinese firm Sinohydro is overseeing the construction along with Dar es Salaambased engineering consultancy firm, Norplan. Even before the Babati- Dodoma via Kondoa road is totally upgraded, already passenger buses commuting between Arusha and Dodoma have stopped using the Chalinze-Morogoro route, choosing the Babati-Singida to Dodoma way which has greatly reduced the journey time (by over 50 per cent) from the previous 12 hours to the current 6 hours.
So the two road sections that the president has inaugurated here recently, are parts of the legendary 'Great North Road' which directly links South Africa and Egypt via Arusha whose 'Clock Tower' junction at the heart of the Northern Tanzanian City is said to be the exact centre point between South (Cape- Town) and North (Cairo) of the African continent.
"The resurrection of the 'Great North' road," say the doomsday prophets, "Signals the advent of Armageddon " But back to reality, the revival of this important corridor is a crucial step in the economic development in all areas that the trunk will be passing through. Of course there is always a price tag; the Minjingu- Arusha highway construction will also involve demolition of some properties situated on either side of the road once it enters the City in Majengo, Mbauda and Ngarenaro sections where some 100 parties stand to be compensated to the tune of 6 billion/-.