Paving the way to economic prosperity through infrastructure

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Coordinating the care and maintenance of more than 67,500 kilometres of roads and the entire bridge infrastructure network across Zambia is no mean feat, but for Nonde Musawa it is challenging and inspirational work.

Nonde is the Senior Manager for Planning with the Road Development Agency, a position he was promoted to after completing an Australia Awards Short Course on Public-Private Infrastructure Partnerships at the University of Queensland in 2017. Nonde also holds a Bachelor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and a Master of Road Management and Engineering.

‘Good roads and bridges are a precursor to economic development. They enable goods, including farm goods, to be transported efficiently to markets, and other services, such as education and health, to run more effectively,’ says Nonde from the agency’s headquarters in Lusaka. 

In Zambia, 82 per cent of unpaved feeder roads need work and this is a major government priority. Poor transport infrastructure, including in agricultural areas, affects economic prosperity.

With his team of five engineers and other technical staff based in 10 regional offices, Nonde’s responsibilities include coordinating road asset management and identifying potential projects for financing.

Another key responsibility has been planning for public-private partnerships, or PPPs, which are vital to progressing Zambia’s road and bridge infrastructure improvements more quickly and effectively without additional government funding. Roads and bridges form a significant portion of the national budget—approximately 7.5 per cent in 2019.

‘Without PPPs, the government will face delays in implementing “Link Zambia 8000”, the massive infrastructure drive it embarked on in 2012,’ says Nonde. ‘Work is underway to upgrade approximately 8,000 kilometres of road.’ 

‘While structuring and implementing PPP projects has a longer history and is more commonplace in countries like Australia, it’s relatively new to Zambia’s transport sector,’ says Nonde.

‘My studies in Australia have made me a pioneer in the industry at home. It’s inspiring to share my knowledge and help build the PPP skills of working group members, including the National Road Fund Agency and Ministry of National Development Planning.’

One of the main development projects Nonde focused on after returning from Australia was the design of the Mwami One Stop Border Post, a bilateral project between Zambia and Malawi. Nonde, who managed the project’s design, says construction aims to substantially reduce border crossing turnaround time, from an average of more than 3.5 hours to just over 1.5 hours.

The project—expected to be completed by mid-2020—has many benefits, including economic growth from increased trade and job creation. It initially generated up to 50 new jobs for Zambia and is expected to create another 100 to support ongoing border operations. 

The improvements benefit the 60 or so truckers who cross the border daily, and traders and government agencies operating at the border facility or using it to conduct business between the two countries. 

Nonde coordinated all contractual issues during the design phase, to ensure the project was fit-for-purpose. Features include wheelchair ramps and elevators for people with disabilities and other marginalised groups. 

A separate consultancy will focus on gender mainstreaming and HIV/AIDS awareness. ‘Construction workers are dealing with people in nearby communities, so it’s important to build understanding of HIV and mitigate possible HIV/AIDS transmission,’ says Nonde. 

With this project, Nonde also organised Joint Technical and Steering Committee meetings and worked with Zambia’s Ministry of Commerce Trade and Industry, Ministry of Transport and Communication and Ministry of Housing and Infrastructure Development. ‘It’s rewarding to see so many parties working together towards common goals,’ says Nonde.

Feature from Alumni News Volume 27. Click here for full Alumni News.

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