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Bridges collapsing into a funding gap

Mozambique has a problem when it comes to finding the cash to pay for everyday maintenance and repair of its roads network

Today’s front pages in Maputo. Photo © Faizal Chauque / Zitamar News

Good afternoon. Last week, several towns in the north of Cabo Delgado province found themselves cut off from the provincial capital and provinces to the south, after the top deck of an aqueduct carrying the N380 highway north of the town of Macomia was damaged in heavy rain. This can only have added to the misery of residents in those places, who have already had to endure attacks by Islamic State-backed insurgents and a loss of basic public services due to the resulting flight of key workers from the area.

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Although the immediate cause of the damage was seasonal heavy rain, the aqueduct seems to have already been in poor condition due to a lack of proper maintenance. Being close to the war with the insurgents is not really an issue for maintaining the aqueduct, as it is only 2km away from Macomia town. Meanwhile, two bridges are also out of action in the centre of Tete province. The rains so far have not even been particularly hard, but they are exposing the poor state of road infrastructure. For about two years now, a bridge over the Revúbuè river linking the cities of Moatize and Tete has been unusable due to one of its sections collapsing in bad weather. Again and again, roads and bridges are left to deteriorate until they need major repairs or replacement, at greater cost.

In the past, the National Roads Administration did not always adequately monitor the condition of its roads and bridges, but after a bridge failure in Cabo Delgado two years ago it has been more thorough in carrying out inspections. The major issue with the state of Mozambique’s road network, as so often in Mozambique, is a shortage of money. Donor funding and low-cost loans from development banks are available to build new infrastructure, where a business case can be made, but they are harder to get for repair or maintenance work. In the past, donor funding was used to carry out works on the N1 north-south highway, but this fell away after the so-called “hidden debts” corruption scandal, leaving the highway to deteriorate to its current crumbling condition. Thus, when the government was last year negotiating a deal with the US for $500m of grant funding from the Millennium Challenge Corporation, ministers asked unsuccessfully for permission to spend some of the money on repairing bridges in Tete province.

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