South Sudan president Salva Kiir has unveiled grand plans to construct highways connecting different states to the Capital Juba, saying improved infrastructure will spur economic growth.
Kiir on Tuesday told Parliament that during his trip to China last year, he met with President Xi and his government on infrastructure development.
He said government has since signed a contract with Shandong High-Speed Company and other Chinese construction companies to build major highways connecting the three regions of South Sudan with Juba.
“The government has approved a plan to fund the construction of these highways from our crude oil,” he added.
Within South Sudan, there is a lack of connectivity among regions and between urban and rural areas.
Additionally, there are only limited connections with neighboring countries.
Connectivity with Sudan in the north is primarily by air or river. On the road network, most traffic is between Juba and Uganda.
Experts say improved connectivity will enhance access to basic services throughout the country and support the integration of domestic markets.
Kiir said the Petroleum Authority is under instructions to deposit money from “30,000 barrels of crude oil daily into an account (Exim Bank) established for this purpose. It is against the funds accruing from these barrels of crude that road construction can be financed.”
The country currently produces about 170,000 barrels per day.
A high priority of Government to the development of basic infrastructure, especially road networks would provide enhanced support for agricultural development throughout the country.
Kiir said his plans have been approved by the Council of Ministers.
“And I have created a China Desk in my office so I can directly supervise this important project,” said Kiir, adding, “We are starting with the Juba-Rumbek highway (418kms) and then we can start the Nadapal (Kenya border)-Torit-Juba-Bor highway (539kms) to Upper Nile.”
The third road is the Kaya-Yei road (219 Kms) and lastly, Western Equatoria to Raja Road (451 Kms).
Kiir said “these roads are the trunk roads that will spur economic growth and give birth to new industries in our country… With peace in our sight, I see road construction as a critical measure needed in order to spur development and economic growth in our country. Economic development is a function of the movement of people, goods and services; and these require good roads.”
The construction works will take 36 months.
Decades of civil war have inhibited the provision of basic infrastructure in the landlocked country and this undermined much of its production capacity.
As a result, most goods – such as food, construction materials, and basic inputs – are imported. And exports other than oil are minimal.
Given that about 80% of the population lives in rural areas, the lack of basic infrastructure for many years now has been a serious impediment to the development of the large agricultural potential of the country.