Uganda / EU Commissioner Piebalgs opens completed section of Masaka-Mbarara highway; flags off works on Mbarara-Katuna

BRUSSELS, Kingdom of Belgium, November 9, 2011/African Press Organization (APO)/ — Andris Piebalgs, EU Commissioner for Development Cooperation, has officially opened a completed section of the re-constructed Masaka- Mbarara highway and ‘broken the ground’ for the start of the re-construction of the Mbarara – Katuna highway.

The re-construction of these sections of northern corridor is part of the European Union’s commitment towards enhancing regional integration through facilitating the improvement of transport conditions and shortening travel times for goods and persons.

The new road will contribute to reduction in travel time and vehicle maintenance cost, which will have a positive impact on the economic development. It has been estimated that 1% of reduction in the transport costs will result in 2.5% increase in the volume of trade. The transport sector accounts for 6% of Uganda’s GDP and is dominated by the road sector, which carries more than 90% of domestic trade.

Upon completion, the Masaka – Mbarara highway will cost an estimated € 117 million approximately UGX 460 billion.

Commenting on the importance of this infrastructure, Commissioner Piebalgs stated:

“These roads form part of the all important northern corridor. While the EU remains one of Uganda’s largest export markets – welcoming about one third of exports, regional trade is crucial to Uganda’s development. Good infrastructure can turn a relatively small land-locked market of 32 million people into truly embracing the EAC common market of over 130 million. I want to take this opportunity to applaud President Museveni for his vision and determination in embracing regional integration. The EU will certainly do our utmost to support you in this noble endeavour including in supporting key infrastructure.”

Commissioner Piebalgs also lauded government for “the institutional reforms put in place to ensure adequate funding for maintenance” and the “efforts being undertaken to harmonise the regional legislation in respect of axle load control”. However he challenged government on road safety and maintenance if the objective of this project is to be met. “Good infrastructure is crucial for sustainable development. But if it is abused through poor driving at excessive speeds, it will contribute to an increase in accidents. I urge the Government of Uganda to put in place measures necessary to address this important issue” he said.

Earlier in the day, Commissioner Piebalgs commissioned the start of works on the Mbarara – Katuna highway, the last 124km stretch of the vital northern corridor in Uganda. The European Commission has earmarked 122 million Euro, approximately UGX 480 billion, to finance the rehabilitation of the Mbarara – Katuna Road, making this project the largest road project funded by the EU.

The re-construction of both the Masaka- Mbarara and Mbarara – Katuna roads is in line with the EU support to the GoU in implementing its Road Sector Development Plan (RSDP).

Note to Editors

Masaka – Mbarara is a central section of the vital Northern Corridor Route, which links the economies of East Africa and the Great Lakes region with the Indian Ocean. It complements other interventions along the Northern Corridor Route undertaken by the GoU and supported by the EDF. These include the completed Jinja – Bugiri road and the Kampala Northern Bypass and the Mbarara – Ntungamo – Katuna road; whose re-construction was officially kicked-off this morning.

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