Monrovia - The government of Liberia and Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) has signed a U$S46 million grant agreement to begin the construction of phase two of the Somalia Drive road project.
“Today, we are going to sign another grant aid agreement for the second phase of this project, which is targeting rehabilitation of the existing two lanes of the Somalia Drive,” said Koji Makino, JICA representative.
“Therefore after completing the phase two construction, Somalia Drive will have four completely new lanes along 13.2km from Freeport to Red-light Junction.”
Makino said the project for reconstruction of Somalia Drive is the biggest Japanese grant-aid project in Liberia, conducted by the JICA.
He mentioned that preparation for phase two is well underway, adding that construction work will start this 2017.
“We already completed preparatory survey for the phase two last year and plan to start construction work within this year 2017.
It means that JICA will start phase two even before the end of phase one which is currently ongoing. It is a very rare case amongst JICA project around the world.”
Makino said the road project is intended to ease traffic congestion alongside the Somalia Drive and promote economic and social activities.
Minister of Foreign Affairs, Marjon Kamara, lauded the Japanese Government for the high level of support to the people and the government.
“I want to thank you for this great transformation, because Japan is investing in one of the priority areas of this government, which is infrastructure development,” she stated.
On behalf of the President Sirleaf, Minister Kamara thanked Japan for standing with Liberia in its reconstruction drive.
JICA said the Somalia Drive project is approximately US$100 million, adding that the project is one of the biggest JICA infrastructure projects in West Africa.
“In phase two, two lanes of the existing road will be rehabilitated. Phase two is expected to start this year. When the two constructions are completed, Somalia Drive will have four lanes from Freeport to Red-light.”
“The new four lane road provides safety for pedestrians by separating sidewalk, and the decrease of floods alongside the road as the new drainage system will be constructed.”
The Japanese Aid Agency said rebuilding Liberia’s infrastructure is the highest priority of President Sirleaf and her administration.
“JICA will continue to contribute to the improvement in socio-economic condition in Liberia, together with the people and government of Liberia.”
The Ambassador of Japan to Liberia Kaoru Yoshimura expressed joy for the both countries to again exchange note on the reconstruction of the Somalia Drive.
“It is an honor for me to be here today on behalf of the government of Japan for the exchange notes for the project for reconstruction of Somalia Drive in Monrovia phase two,”Yoshimura said.
“It is our hope that the second phase of the project would be implemented as scheduled and with little hurdles. "
"Upon completion, the Somalia Drive will essentially signify a Liberia which is striving towards economic excellence.”
He said the reconstruction of the Somalia Drive is a demonstration of Japan’s commitment to improving the socio-economic lives of partners such as Liberia through infrastructure development.
He added that the commitment was further expounded during the 2016 Tokyo International Conference for Africa Development (TICAD) held in Nairobi Kenya.
“During TICAD, Japanese Prime Minister Abe announced that Japan’s partnership with African countries would aimed at achieving a “quality Africa” built through the three elements of infrastructure, human resources and “Kaizen”’Yoshimura said.
Yoshimura furthered that Japan pledged to dedicate approximately 10 billion US dollars to Africa over the next three years for building high “quality infrastructure.”
Public Works Minister Gyude Moore thanked the Japanese Government for their support to Liberia.
"For us at Public Works, we will have to work along with whichever contractors that will be hired to do the job."
In June 2013, JICA and the government of Liberia signed a grant aid agreement for the reconstruction of Somalia Drive.
The construction of the Somalia Drive started in February 2014 but work was suspended due to the Ebola outbreak and construction work resume October 2015.
The first phase of the project include the expansion of current two lane Somalia Drive to total four lane, constructing two completely new lanes along with the current road, from Freeport to Red-light of 13.2km; construction of Stockton bridge and repair of the double bridge.
The Public Works Minister listed some of initiatives by the Japanese government to Liberia which include the newly built bridges in Grand Cape Mount County; construction of huge ware houses in Lofa County for storing of rice, giving loans to micro, small and medium entrepreneurs and mentioned the opening of alleyways, by the Ministry of Public Works, along the Robertsfield highway.
She stated that Japan has been one of Liberia's very long time bilateral partners.
"Some of our colleagues went to Japan to do their graduate studies on bilateral scholarships."