Finance and Development Planning Minister Amara M. Konneh today hosted a delegation of Arab lenders at the inception of their appraisal mission to Liberia over the proposed financing of the Gbarnga-Mendikorma Highway Construction Project.
According to a Ministry of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP) release, the delegationwhich is expected to tour the road ahead of the signing of various financing agreements later this year,comprises the OPEC Fund for International Development (OFID), the Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa (BADEA), the Saudi Fund for Development (SFD), the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development (ADFD), and the Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development (KFAED).
The project which is US$430 million will be implemented intwo phases, beginning with works on LOT 1, which runs from Gbarnga to Konia. LOT1 is estimated at US$184.7 million dollars.
Speaking to reporters at the inception meeting today at the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning, Minister Konneh said, “To date, the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning has secured financing commitments, in the tune of US$72 million, from the majority of our lenders, for the financing of LOT 1.
Minister Konneh maintained that,”The paving of the road from Gbarnga to Mendikorma, considered Liberia’s agriculture belt, will improve accessibility of roads all year round plus connectivity of roads and bridges between Gbarnga and Mendikorma thus reducingtransportation cost both in travel time and money. Stressing, “This project will most importantly increase economic activities with emphasis on agribusiness that will ease access to markets. It will also significantly improve access to other social service facilities such as health care centers and schools; support gender development and ultimately reduce poverty.”
The Gbarnga-Konia leg, approximately 137 km in length, is an existing engineered gravel road. Located between Bong and Lofa counties, it begins at the Lofa junction in Gbarnga City, Bong County, and ends at Konia Town, Lofa County.
The road runs through the rainforests of Bong and Lofa with growing interest among investors to do large scale commercial farming for production of Rubber, Cocoa, Palm-oil, Timber, Rice, Fruits etc.
On assuming office in 2005, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf remained focused on an aggressive road agenda seeking to connect major cities and capitals while working to reconstruct derelict urban roads across Monrovia.
This strategic intervention in the road transport sector is in line with the growth constraints analysis informing the development of the Agenda for Transformation (AfT)-the country’s medium term development plan.
It can be recalled that President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf visited the Gulf State of Kuwait in June 2010,during which she made an appeal to the Emir of Kuwait for support to the roads program. That request led to theprovision of financing from the Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development (KFAED) for a Feasibility Study, an Environmental Impact Assessment Study, a detailed Engineering design and preparation of tender documents for the Gbarnga to Mendikorma road link.
“Today, we are seeing the fruits of that historic visit. Our Arab partners have responded and the Government of Liberia is well on its way to opening one of the forgotten economic corridors that is expected to be a game changer in our quest to transform Liberia through development,” Minister Konneh concluded.
Speaking on behalf of the Arab Landers, Engineer Faisal M. Alkahtani, head of Saudi Funds Development re-echoed their williness to finance the Gbarnga-Mendicorma Road Project as he averred, “Our team is in Liberia to work with the Liberian Government to good road connectivity.”
While in the country, the Saudi Fund for Development and the Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa (BADEA) will hold discussions with the Government of Liberia on preparatory works for full rehabilitation of the Runway at the Roberts International Airport. That project is well advanced, as the GoL has fully mobilized the needed funding through credits from these two agencies and the European Investment Bank (EIB), to complete the runway.