October 20, 2012 (JUBA) – South Sudan’s minister of Roads and Bridges, Gier Chuang Aluong, has announced the government’s plan to connect South Sudan and the neighbouring Kenya with a highway in order to boost economic activities between the two sisterly nations.
The highway, he told the press on Saturday, will connect Juba, the new country’s capital, and Nadipal on the countries’ common border.
Aluong further explained the importance of the project, saying it will be “economically viable” and boost economic activities as it will allow commodities to be ferried from the Kenyan port of Mombasa into South Sudan in big volumes over a short period.
Currently South Sudan is a consumer country which exports almost nothing to the outside world besides the oil and imports almost every commodity including agricultural products and livestock for meat from the neighbouring countries.
Aluong said the plan will be supported jointly with the World Bank and the Kenyan government, saying a meeting has already been held by the three bodies to implement the project.
The highway project, which he said will be implemented in 2013, will be the second all-weather asphalted highway after the over 100 kilometres Juba-Nimule road, which was the first highway in South Sudan inaugurated last month.
The Juba-Nimule highway was funded and built by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and connects South Sudan to Uganda.
South Sudan has never had asphalted roads. The region separated from Sudan last year as part of a 2005 peace agreement that brought former rebels - the SPLM - to power in Juba.
However, over the last seven years little progress has been made, despite four SPLM politicians having led the Ministry of Roads and Bridges as part of the regional Government of South Sudan (2005-2011) and since independence in July 2012.
The widow of the late founder of the ruling SPLM, Rebecca Nyandeng de Mabior, as the first minister to hold the position in 2005 when the government was formed.
Officials acknowledge that the lack of roads hinders access to most parts of the vast country which significantly contributes to the failure to deliver the needed services to the 80% of the population that live in rural areas.
The minister of roads had earlier revealed that the country needs to construct a 7,000 kilometre asphalted roads network in order to connect the country’s ten states and to its neighbouring countries in the region.