Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Donors Approve USD 105M for the Construction of Kenema-Koindu Road Project

Bad road on route back to Kenema from Jojoima
A cartel of co-financiers comprising key representatives of the government of Sierra Leone, Kuwaiti Fund, Saudi Fund, Islamic Development Fund and Bank for Economic Development in Africa (BADEA) on 17 January agreed to undertake and pour a collective whopping sum of USD 105m for the construction of the Kenema-Koindu road. The major deliberations at the co-financing conference which was held in the Bintumani hotel conference hall, bordered around financing and implementing the Kenema-Koindu road project. Though the liquid cash for the project has not yet given, the co-financiers have appended their signatures to undertake the entire project with an estimated cost of USD 105m This road project, which was divided in phases, stretches from Kenema to Koindu and covers an estimated 167Km. However due to insufficiency of funds, the co-financiers agreed to adopt the first phase of the project which is the Kenema-Pendembu road, an 86 kilometer road project with an estimated cost of 55 million dollars. During the signing ceremony the Minister of Works, Housing and Technical maintenance, Dr.James Caiser Boima, re-affirmed government’s commitment to making all areas in the accessible at all times, saying that road infrastructure was one that suffered immensely during the war and that the Kenema-Koindu link was the only link that ends at a border that brings all the Mano River Union states in close contact, through a large international market at Koindu. “A well improved road network brings immediate benefits to road users through improved access to hospitals, schools and markets and enhances human capital formation and increase economic activity and prosperity,” Dr.James Caiser Boima said, pointing out government’s goal to improve, promote social and economic growth through the provision of easy access to goods and services throughout Sierra Leone. The minister further went on to say that the Kenema-Koindu road was a very important link in the national road network and it is a Class A road linking Kenema to Shegwema, Daru, Bendembu, Kailahun and Koindu in the Kailahun District. The chairman for the conference, Minister of Transport and Communication, Dr. Prince Harding, after giving a detailed explanation on the importance of Kenema-Koindu road project and the measures taken by the government to improve on road construction, referred to the Kenema-Koindu area an area as the bread-basket of Sierra Leone. “The famous Koindu market was an international market centre where Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone used to exchange trade for trade,” he said, adding that the Kenema-Koindu road construction project will not only reactivate the economy but will help to get rid of poverty and cement the peace between states in the Mano River Union basin. The chairman for the conference, Minister of Transport and Communication, Dr. Prince Harding thanked the donors for coming from far away and to positively respond to the demands of government and the people of Sierra Leone. The Director General, Sierra Leone Roads Authority, Alhaji Ishmael Kebbay said he was very much delighted for the donor conference and for the Kenema –Koindu road project. He remarked that the present dominant internal transport infrastructure is the road network which carries about 90% of the internal traffic flows, the rest being carried by in-land and coastal waters. He said that government’s Transport Sector Policy focuses on improving the efficiency of the transportation services and the provision of adequate transport infrastructure with concentration mainly on the road sub-sector. Alhaji Kebbay also said the national road network has a direct influence on the national welfare by servicing international, national and regional road transport needs and promoting territorial integration. Explaining the difficulties, Alhaji Kebbay said in recent years the traveling public came to realize that easy access to other West African countries from Freetown was difficult and uncertain by air link. That he said hindered the potential benefits of greater economic integration in the sun region. “The only viable alternative to this is transport was the road transport. He said that government relies mainly on the road sub sector of the transport infrastructure for the promotion of internal trade and commerce, especially the rational and efficient distribution of social services, and the effective tapping of agricultural resources to revamp the national economy. The Kenema-Koindu road, Alhaji Kebbay looked at it as a regional project that will facilitate the economic integration of the sub-region. He said the Roughton Engineering firm did the feasibility studies on the international link and that the World Bank identifies the project as one that will open the greater part of landlocked Mali through Guinea to the harbor facilities in Freetown. The SLRA Director General also said the Kenema-Koindu road traverses the agriculture and mineral-rich Kenema and Kailahun districts, having an influence of an estimated population of 700,000 in 30 chiefdoms. “The SLRA Road investment and Road Improvement programme would not be complete without the improvement of the Kenema-Koindu road, Alhaji Ishmael Kebbay said. Estimate Giving an estimate of the project, the SLRA strongman said construction work costs USD 89,976,000, consultancy services: 4,498,800 million dollar, Physical contingency USD 7,085,610, Price Contingency: USD 2,834,241, hand acquisition and relocation service USD 400,000, and estimated total project cost USD 104,794,654. The financing plan for phase 1 In the aide memoir the government of Sierra Leone proposed the following financing plan for Phase 1 of the project. Kuwait Fund USD 12m, Saudi Fund US$11m, BADEA US$ 8m, OPEC Fund US$10m, Islamic Development Bank USD 11m and Government of Sierra Leone USD 2.5m, grand total of USD 54.5m. Due to the financial situation and IMF restructuring for the country, the government of Sierra Leone proposed to reduce its contribution of the counterpart funding from ten percent to five percent making it approximately USD 2.5m and requesting the funding agencies to consider absorbing the difference in the proposed financing plan. The aide memoir states that the government of Sierra Leone requested the funding agencies to coordinate among themselves for a joint appraisal mission in the second quarter of 2007 and t0o follow a fast track approach for the implementation of the project and based on that the following has been proposed: Government requested the Kuwait Fund to finance the consultancy services required for the construction of the project and to retain the same consultant, Abdul Jebain Engineering Consulting Office UNETEC) of Kuwait who prepared the feasibility study, provided that he submits a reasonable offer to the government. The finding agencies requested government to submit a list of qualified contractors who have previous experience in Africa and the region, to Sierra Leone Roads Authority for the purpose of preparing a short list among the submitted names for approval and followed up later by necessary invitations. Long and short term objectives of the Kenema-Koindu Road Project The SLRA Director General said: “The short term objective of the road project is to construct an all weather bituminous road from Kenema to Koindu. He maintained that the long term objectives are to link the country’s capital, Freetown and the sea port with the most early part s of the country which are vital agriculture-production areas, producing timber, coffee, cocoa etc; to promote regional integration, to act as a main arterial road in the sierra Leone road network, to act as a prime road connection between sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia, and to act as an integral link to the Trans-West Africa Highway. The project route is composed of two sections Kenema-Pendembu (87Km) and Pendembu-Koindu (80 Km) and the total length of the road is about 167 Km. The project will also consist of the construction of two main bridges that is the 73m span Bridge over the River Male and 195m multiple Span bridges over the Moa River. Detailed design and final engineering plus contract documents are being prepared with technical assistance from Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development and the contract for the feasibility studies was awarded to United Engineering and Technical Consultants (UNETEC). The latter, on July 1 2005, have submitted their studies report and the project will be implemented by the Sierra Leone Roads Authority with a primary goal of providing a national road network with an acceptable level of serviceability that will ensure physical access to basic social services. Benefit of project Making his remarks, Finance Minister John Benjamin said Government was very much anxious to see the conclusion of the project and when completed, shall once more revitalize the famous Koindu market thus linking the sub region. He said the feasibility and detailed engineering studies for the project is economically viable with a reasonable internal rate of return of is 6%, apart from the economic benefits the project will derive. He ended up by thanking the Donors and President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah for his tremendous interest in road sector development. In his vote of thanks the deputy minister of development thanked the donors for accepting to finance the Kenema-Koindu road project and the government of Sierra Leone for creating the enabling environment for people to invest in Sierra Leone. The co-financiers conference was also attended by other government ministers and functionaries and a battery of journalists from the electronic and print media.