Road Network Funding needed to bolster business opportunities in Nkayi

The Government, in February 2021, declared the state of all roads a National disaster, thereby initiating an incentive for the operationalisation of the Second Phase of the Emergency Roads Rehabilitation Programme (ERRP2).  Under ERRP2, the Government is targeting to rehabilitate 10 000km of roads countrywide.  This initiative has rehabilitated major roads and highways throughout the country. Efforts continue to ensure the achievement of world-class road infrastructure in line with the National Vision 2030. Developing sound road infrastructure is one of the critical enablers towards achieving set targets under the National Development Strategy (NDS1) - the Government’s five-year economic master plan spans from 2021 through 2025.

Nkayi District road networks

The roads leading into and out of Nkayi are among the worst in the Matabeleland region. Enormous potholes and dilapidated road signs characterize the roads that long ceased to be functional, particularly on the Bulawayo-Nkayi road. Nkayi residents have described the state of the roads as the main reason why Nkayi remains one of the least developed districts in the country. Bulawayo-Nkayi road is a primary road that links Bulawayo and Nkayi and provides a direct link between Bulawayo and Gokwe in the Midlands Province. Kwekwe-Nkayi road is a secondary road linking the Harare-Bulawayo road to the Bulawayo-Victoria Falls road.  The Kwekwe to Nkayi section is 93.6 km. The upgrading of the Bulawayo-Nkayi road has been going on for a long time. The road upgrade from a narrow state to a surface standard commenced in 1993 with a feasibility study.

Opportunities for good road networks in Nkayi

In line with the president’s mantra of "leaving no place and no one behind", it is very important to consider developing good road networks within the Nkayi district. The Kwekwe-Nkayi-Lupane Road is a national trunk route linking Midlands Province to Matabeleland North Province. It is vital for trade and commerce, tourism and social communication for the locals and Zimbabweans.  Maintenance of this narrow road is critical; thus, the 2023 national budget should consider its funding.  In addition to serving local communities, the Kwekwe-Nkayi-Lupane road provides a shorter route to Victoria Falls, a major tourist centre. The shortest route between Victoria Falls and Harare is through Nkayi rather than Bulawayo, thus showing the importance of rehabilitating connecting roads in Nkayi.

During a pre-budget consultation meeting in Nkayi, a resident representing the Nkayi business community said that the business sector is losing more opportunities due to the slow pace of rehabilitating the 158km Bulawayo-Nkayi Road. The deplorable state of the road network in Nkayi leads to a loss of business opportunities. Nobody wants to risk their vehicles on bad roads, which has an adverse economic impact as companies cannot invest in Nkayi given the state of our roads. Ensuring a smooth road connection between Nkayi centre is critical in increasing business traffic and attracting more tourists from Harare to Victoria Falls. This shows the importance of setting aside funds in the 2023 national budget to rehabilitate road networks in the Nkayi district.

Poor road networks affect women the most. Women are known to carry a heavy transport burden when compared to men, and this is due to the multiple roles they play in the household. Rural women play a critical role in the economy of rural areas like Nkayi. Many of the activities women need to perform, such as collecting wood or accessing healthcare, are restricted due to insufficient transport networks. Due to the deplorable state of health infrastructure in Nkayi District, women cannot follow up on Anti-retroviral treatment and antenatal care due to the distance and cost they have to travel to treatment centres like in Bulawayo. One has to travel an average of four hours for a distance as short as 158 kilometres from Nkayi to Bulawayo due to poor roads.

Additionally, if Nkayi routes are rehabilitated, trucks and ferry coaches from different places surrounding Nkayi would use these routes to bring imports from Zambia, such as making them available in Nkayi for trading and retail. Also, maize, cotton, tobacco and other farm produce transported from Gokwe through Kwekwe would be easily accessed in Nkayi.

2023 National Budget

There is a need for the 2023 budget to increase funding for road rehabilitation to ensure the speedy completion of the Bulawayo-Nkayi Road, which would enhance economic activity and create more job opportunities in the district. During the pre-budget consultation meeting, several stakeholders stressed the need to peg the budget in US dollars and increase budget allocation for the Bulawayo-Nkayi Road construction, in particular and other development projects with transformative impact on people's livelihoods.