The Government of Liberia through its ministries of Foreign Affairs and Public Works has lauded the Government and people of Japan for the US$46 million grant signed on March 14, 2017 to finance the reconstruction of two additional lanes of the Somalia Drive road project.
In 2013 Japan and Liberia signed a US$50 million grant for the construction of two lanes of Somalia Drive. The project was started in 2014 but came to a halt as a result of the devastating Ebola crisis that affected Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone.
If left out, the second phase of the project would have created serious constraints for both government and citizens.
At the grant signing ceremony in the conference room of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Government of Liberia was represented by Foreign Minister Marjon V. Kamara and Public Works Minister Gyude Moore while Japan was represented by its Ambassador, Kaoru Yoshimura, and the Director of Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), Koji Makino.
“We must say that you are intervening in many of the areas that the Liberian Government prioritizes, and one of them is infrastructure. We want to say thanks for the high level of contributions you are making to the socioeconomic transformation of our country,” Minister Kamara said.
She also extended gratitude on behalf of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and the Government of Liberia, acknowledging that Japan has also intervened in areas of education and agriculture; provided non-project aid grants that have been used to finance warehouse erections in the counties for agriculture; and opening of alleys along the Robertsfield Highway.
The dilapidated Somalia Drive has over the years made traveling difficult for people in Paynesville, Barnersville, Gardinersville, New Georgia and other places in north-eastern Monrovia.
The size and deplorable condition of the road caused traffic congestion, damaged vehicles and delayed people going to work in central Monrovia where most activities in the capital are concentrated.
“The Somalia Drive is one of the biggest links to the city in terms of having access to the port. Hospitals, clinics and schools are all along the road, and because of the population density, that road is overcrowded. What we have from Japan today in terms of expanding the road for dual carriage will help us to improve the road in terms of access way,” Public Works Minister Gyude Moore said.
According to Minister Moore, Monrovia was built for at most 400,000 people, but now has a population of close to 2 million people.
He said the expansion of the road will improve the health of people living along that belt because it will reduce traffic congestion.
The Ambassador of Japan to Liberia, Kaoru Yoshimura, said it was an honor that Liberia and his country exchanged notes for phase two of the Somalia Drive road project, expressing hope that it goes on smoothly with little hurdles unlike the first phase that was hindered by the Ebola outbreak.
Like Minister Moore, Ambassador Yoshimura said reconstruction and expansion of the road would reduce traffic congestion and promote economic activities in Monrovia.
“Heavy trucks and other businesspeople conducting businesses from Freeport into the city center would enjoy the convenience of smooth movement on the road,” Ambassador Yoshimura said.
Phase-two of the Japanese funded Somalia Drive road project, in addition to phase-one, will amount to US$100 million, which the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) Chief Representative, Koji Makino, said is one of his country’s biggest project in West Africa.
He said construction work on phase-two will commence this 2017 while the first phase is ongoing, noting that it is an indication of JICA’s strong will to support the livelihood of the Liberian people and the economic growth of the country.
“We believe that smooth traffic network is the foundation of all aspects of social and economic development, and it is the highest priority in Liberia. We are grateful to make a contribution to the life of more than one million people in Monrovia, as well as logistics and commercial activities in this area,” Makino said.
Meanwhile, both phase-one and phase-two of the Japanese funded project is expected to expand the current two lanes of the 13.2 kilometer-Somalia Drive to four lanes from Freeport to Red Light, construct a new Stockton Bridge and repair the Double Bridge.
The construction of Somalia Drive is a part of Japan’s commitment to Africa it made in Nairobi, Kenya, in 2016 to achieve what it calls “Quality Africa.”
The Quality Africa goal is under the framework of the Tokyo International Conference for Africa, an umbrella trade organization under which Japan partners with Africa.
To achieve this, Japan pledged to dedicate approximately US$10 billion to Africa for the next three years from the day of the 2016 conference, to build high quality infrastructure.
In addition to the road project in Liberia, Japan contributed approximately US$25 million in September 2016 to rehabilitate the Monrovia Power System.
“These projects and many other infrastructural projects, which Japan hopes to pursue in Liberia in the near future, would significantly contribute to improve the lives of Liberians,” Ambassador Yoshimura said.