By Yusufu S. Bangura
With funding from Africa Development Bank (AfDB), Sierra Leone Road Authorities (SLRA), in collaboration with Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Works, has launched the Mano River Union Road Development project, which will reduce transport cost from Sierra Leone to Guinea and Liberia.
The launching ceremony took place on Tuesday, 21st February,at the SLRA head office, Ferry Junction in Freetown.
Speaking at the event, Director General of SLRA, Ing. Amara Jambai Kanneh, welcomed the gathering and thanked AfDB and MRU for the support over the years.
He said the presence of stakeholders from Kailahun district shows how significant the project is towards the development of that district.
He said Kailahun has paid special attention to that road because people have always requested for that road to be constructed, so they were very grateful to AfDB for coming in at the right time to fund that project which will cover from Kenema to Koindu.
“We will always be grateful to them for the roll they have played in that district and the country at large,” he said.
Ing. Kanneh said they have engaged stakeholders in the community for them to support the project because it will benefit them and the country as they will need to travel with their food stuff from their villages to Freetown.
Country Program Officer at AfDB, Felicitas Atanga, said the MRU Road Development and Transport Facilitation project was approved by the board of directors at AfDB in March 2022, for a total cost of 35million United States Dollars grant.
He said the project is a regional project which covers Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, adding that there is a provision for the upgrading 25km road network from Kailahun to Buedu on the Kailahun-Koindu corridor in Sierra Leone,
“The construction of the 276m peace bridge on the Makona River linking Guinea will reduce transport cost, ease the free movement of people and goods, promote regional trade and improve the living standards of the local population. It is expected that the project will create approximately 500 temporary jobs over the next 2 years, 30% of which will be for women. Finally, the project will finance the feasibility studies for 90km road and the construction of the Koindu market,” she said.
He said the project consolidates road rehabilitation efforts so far and is expected to boost economic recovery in the country, following the Covid-19 pandemic and the current effect of the Russia-Ukraine war.
“I wish to conclude by reassuring the government of the Bank Group’s continuous support towards Sierra Leone’s development agenda in the spirit of collaboration. We count on the usual support of the Ministry of Finance in the timely approval of all project documents sent to them for clearance,” she promised.
In her statement, Secretary General of Mano River Union, Ambassador Maria G. Harrison thanked the MRU member states for their commitment to the implementation of Phase I and II of the MRU Road Projects.
“I believe that when completed, this project will contribute to the opening up of the interior of Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone and to the strengthening of sub-regional integration and trade within the MRU region,” she said.
She said with the help of the AfDB Road Transport Program, it is becoming more and more convenient to travel by road from Conakry to Abidjan, via Freetown and Monrovia.
She emphasizes that transport facilitation in the MRU sub-region has also helped to enhance trade facilitation and accelerate regional integration through the free movement of goods and people.
Harrison further said the component of the MRU Road project consists of trade facilitation and construction of the peace bridge.
“Let me assure you that the MRU will play a leading role towards the implementation of this regional component. As you are all aware, the signing of the MOU between Guinea and Sierra Leone is a prerequisite for the first disbursement,” she said.
She said the MRU will continue to work closely with the governments of Sierra Leone and Guinea to ensure that the Memorandum of Understanding is signed, which is a necessary process for this road transport project.
“In order to expedite the process, I am kindly requesting for a tripartite meeting between the MRU Secretariat and the authorities of Guinea and Sierra Leone to discuss and conclude the signing of the MoU which is a key requirement for the construction of the Peace Bridge,” she concluded.
Representative from the Ministry of Works and Public also made statement during the launching ceremony.