TANZANIA yesterday sealed a contract for construction of the longest bridge on lake waters in East Africa to facilitate transport and trade with neighbouring countries.
The signing comes hardly four days after President John Magufuli launched a landmark Rufiji hydropower project. The 3.2-kilometre bridge on Lake Victoria will connect Kigongo and Busisi areas in Mwanza region.
The signing of the 593bn/- deal is another milestone in the country's efforts to revamp transport infrastructure few days after the launch of the mega hydropower project in Rufiji river-Stiegler's Gorge power project.
The government inked the contract with two Chinese contractors-the China Civil Engineering Construction Group (CCECG) and China Railway 15th Bureau Group Co Ltd-for execution of the Kigongo-Busisi bridge.
At the signing ceremony in Dar es Salaam, Works, Transport and Communications Minister Engineer Isack Kamwelwe said the bridge will link Tanzania with neighbouring Uganda, Burundi and Rwanda, accelerating trade and boosting the regional economy.
Currently, people use ferries to cross between Kigongo and Busisi, which is the main route to Mwanza from neighbouring regions of Kagera and Geita.
It is expected that since Mwanza city is the commercial hub in the Lake zone, construction of the bridge will enhance movement of people and goods to and from Mwanza.
"It will reduce transport time and facilitate trade among the East African countries," the minister assured, saying currently, vehicles spend up to three hours to cross to either side of the Lake by using ferry.
The vehicles spend about two hours in queue to get on the ferry and about 45 minutes to reach the other side.
Engineer Kamwelwe said construction of the bridge will be fully funded by the government and during construction, over 1000 direct jobs and 10,000 indirect jobs will be created.
Shedding light on technical part of the bridge, Chief Executive Officer of the Tanzania National Roads Agency (TANROADS) Engineer Patrick Mfugale said the bridge will be connected to a 34-kilometre road, with 28.4 metres wide from Mwanza.
The 180-tonne capacity bridge will allow 1600 vehicles to pass at a time.
Hinting on the historic background of the project, Eng Mfugale said the Kigongo- Busisi bridge plan dates back to 1977, but for all those years donors refused to finance its construction. Geita Regional Commissioner Robert Gabriel said construction of the bridge was a dream of the father of the nation, the late Julius Nyerere.
"For us, this is an economic savior, it's going to connect us with Mwanza," said Engineer Gabriel. Mwanza Regional Commissioner John Mongela was grateful that Mwanza is now going to open up its potentials as the commercial hub in the East African region.
Speaking on behalf of the legislators from Mwanza region, Misungwi MP Charles Kitwanga said they have been only seeing the project in papers for many years, but now things have become a reality.
He further said the bridge will offer opportunities to Tanzania and neighbouring countries for cargo could be transported from Dar es Salaam to Mwanza and to neighbouring regions and countries.