MONROVIA, September 10, 2015 – Despite the Ebola outbreak and other challenges affecting a post-conflict and fragile country, the Liberian government is making important strides to better connect the country’s remote areas with its capital Monrovia.
Supported by the World Bank and other development partners, the Liberia Road Asset Management Project is building and rehabilitating some 250 kilometers of road from Monrovia to the Guinea border corridor, to more effectively integrate the hinterland with the capital.
Once completed, the flagship transport project will connect the entire country, reducing the risks of further fragility that often tends to affect more remote and disconnected areas, and bringing a broader socio-economic impact.
China Chongqing International Construction Corporation (CICO), a construction firm, is currently rehabilitating Lot 1 of the Monrovia-Gbarnga-Ganta-Guinea border road corridor.
“This is one of the largest road projects in a country with a huge infrastructure deficit currently trying to make up for the disruptions caused by the Ebola Virus Disease outbreak,” said World Bank Liberia Country Manager Inguna Dobraja. “The project will improve the dilapidated road infrastructure and connectivity that Liberians need to have access to markets and basic social services.”
An estimated 300,000 people will directly benefit (51% being women) from an increased access to mobility, markets, and basic services like education and health facilities.
In terms of boosting local capacity, the contract format provides incentives for generating local jobs, with up to 95% of the contractors’ workforce, both skilled and unskilled, being local Liberians. Furthermore, the skilled staff and the operators are being trained by the contractors.
Philip Gongar, a Liberian staff of contractor CICO, said his job as Human Resources Officer has transformed his life following his return from neighboring Côte d'Ivoire where he resided as a refugee for 10 years.
“Our employment here has brought great relief to us, especially the young people of Liberia who are desperate for jobs,” Gongar explained. “I am able to cater for my family and the job has enabled me to learn new techniques which I can employ at other jobs following the end of the road rehabilitation.”
The project is financed by the World Bank and the Liberia Reconstruction Trust Fund (LRTF) for a total of $300 million. The LRTF is a multi-donor trust fund for infrastructure, which is supported by the European Union, and the governments of Great Britain (DfID), Sweden (Sida), Ireland (Irish Aid), Norway and Germany (KfW), and the World Bank. The LRTF is administered by the World Bank and supervised by an Oversight Committee comprising the Government of Liberia and contributing donors.
The Liberia Road Asset Management Project is also among the largest performance-based contracts in the World Bank’s transport portfolio, and uses a long term (10-year) Output and Performance-based Road Contract (OPRC) format. Although Botswana and Mozambique have had OPRC experience, Liberia is the leader in Africa to adopt a 10-year OPRC.
“This 10-year investment on Liberia’s major economic road corridor would not only promote the pioneering of long-term engagement with the private sector including the local construction industry,” said William Gyude Moore, Minister of Public Works in Liberia. “But it would also contribute significantly to the country’s economic revival through safe and efficient movement of goods and services.”
The OPRC imposes on the project’s contractors the responsibility for maintenance in order to realize the full value out of the investments. The PBC also covers the entire life cycle of the road project, including rehabilitation, routine maintenance and periodic renewal of the entire road. The contractors have also conducted road safety awareness campaigns for local schools along other community-related activities.
“This type of contract is a significant improvement to earlier generations of the PBCs,” said Kulwinder Singh Rao, a senior highway engineer and World Bank task team leader for the project. “The payments under the contract are more closely guided by the road-user experience. Moreover, it leverages limited client technical and managerial capacity by allowing it to focus on finished outputs and outcomes.”
This leveraging is already showing some important results, including:
- Lower costs - The project is probably delivering the lowest cost (about $0.6 million) of rehabilitation per kilometer compared to similar road projects in the entire West Africa;
- Faster completion - Despite significant site handover delays and due to the Ebola outbreak, 70% of the road has been rehabilitated. Nearly 80 km of road was rehabilitated post Ebola crisis during February- June, 2015
- Expenditure reliability - A fixed lump sum of payment to the contractor is providing expenditure reliability.
- Local capacity - The contract format generates local jobs, with up to 95% of the contractors’ workforce, both skilled and unskilled, being locals.