Chinese and Austrian firms to upgrade major highway in Zimbabwe

HARARE (Reuters) – Zimbabwe signed an agreement on Monday with Chinese and Austrian firms to upgrade a busy highway, a deal that will be one of the country’s biggest road projects since independence 36 years ago.

China Harbour Engineering Company Ltd (CHEC), a subsidiary of China Communications Construction Co Ltd, will partner Austria’s Geiger International to upgrade and add more lanes to the 900 km (558 mile) highway from Beitbridge on the border with South Africa to Chirundu on the Zambian border.

The highway is economically significant as it links landlocked Zimbabwe and Zambia to the Indian Ocean ports of Durban and Richards Bay in South Africa.

Transport Minister Joram Gumbo said the cost of the project, which the minister had estimated at $2.7 billion in March, was yet to be determined.

CHEC joins several Chinese firms that have been given contracts in Zimbabwe, for projects such as building power stations or revamping water plants, since President Robert Mugabe’s government fell out with Western financiers in 2000.

The road project is split in two phases, with the Chinese-Austrian venture building and getting a 20-year concession to operate part of the road, while the other part will be financed by a loan from an unnamed party and investment from CHEC.

 

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