Maputo — The Mozambican authorities hope to lease out to private operators four sections of the country's main north-south highway (EN1) by the end of the year, according to a report in Tuesday's issue of the Maputo daily "Noticias".
This means that the private operator guarantees to maintain the road, and collects money from the users through toll gates.
For many years the government has spoken of enforcing a "user pays" approach to road maintenance - but the only major toad with toll gates remains the Maputo-South Africa motorway.
In 1997, this road was leased to the South African company Trans African Concessions (TRAC) for 30 years. TRAC ensured the construction and maintenance of the motorway and collects tolls from motorists at two toll gates.
Although TRAC has kept the motorway operating without requiring funds from the Mozambican state budget, this model has not been followed anywhere else in the country. Even the promised toll gates on the new Maputo Ring Road have not appeared, meaning that the money which should pay for the upkeep of this road is simply not being collected.
Almost the entire Mozambican road network is run by the State, through the National Roads Administration (ANE). Since the state does not have the funds to pay for the regular maintenance needed, the roads deteriorate, and every now and then the government obtains loans from the World Bank, the European Union, or some other sympathetic agency, to rehabilitate the roads.
For decades the State has effectively been subsidising the companies that own heavy trucks (which cause most of the damage to the roads), and the rich individuals who own cars.
But the ANE General Manager, Marco Vaz dos Anjos, told "Noticias" he hopes that lease agreements will be signed with private operators in the second half of the year.
The stretches to be leased are from Marracuene (30 kilometres north of Maputo) to Xai-Xai, capital of Gaza province; from Xai-Xai to Chissibuca, in the neighbouring province of Inhambane; from the Inchope crossroads, in Sofala province, to Caia, on the south bank of the Zambezi, and from Namialo, in the northern province of Nampula, to Metoro, in Cabo Delgado.
Dos Anjos did not say which companies might be interested in operating the roads, nor how many toll gates will be installed.
But he claimed that investors are interested in operating other roads, such as the highway from Nampula city to the port of Nacala, and the road from Matola to Boane, about 40 kilometres west of Maputo.