South Sudan President Salva Kiir ceremoniously broke ground Thursday in Juba on a Japanese-funded, $91-million project to build a new bridge across the River Nile.
With Japanese Ambassador to Juba Takeshi Akamatsu and several other dignitaries looking on, Mr. Kiir said the time was right for a new bridge in South Sudan's rapidly growing capital city.
“Given the rate of the development we are experiencing in Juba, we anticipate faster growth in the volume of traffic using the bridge," he said. "It is therefore an opportune time to have a modern bridge with the capacity to accommodate the envisaged increase in traffic load.”
Akamatsu said construction of the bridge and other major infrastructure projects that are being undertaken with engineering and financial help from Japan were delayed by the crisis in South Sudan.
"When I arrived in Juba in 2012, there were three major infrastructure projects to be inaugurated. They are improvement of Juba River Port, improvement of water supply system of Juba, and, finally, this Nile River bridge," Akamatsu said. "All of these three projects have been suspended because of the conflict, as our consultants and engineers had to leave the country over security concerns, making it impossible to pursue the schedule."
Boosting the economy
Mr. Kiir said the new bridge, which is expected to be completed in 2018, will boost South Sudan's economy.
“The construction of the Freedom Bridge is part of our strategy to support our economic growth through improved, safe and sustainable road infrastructure. The envisaged growth is expected to result from improved interstate trade as well as improved trade with our neighbors within the region," he said.
The 560-meter-long Freedom Bridge will have a 3.6-kilometer access road, two lanes for vehicular traffic and a pedestrian sidewalk on one side. It will span the Nile near the spot where the Juba Bridge has stood for more than 40 years, carrying traffic across the world's longest river to join with the Juba-to-Nimule road.
The Juba-to-Nimule road is one of few paved highways in South Sudan. It is the preferred route for most South Sudanese to get to Uganda, which is South Sudan's largest trading partner. Most imports to South Sudan are transported via the road.