China’s state Xinhua News Agency said the 321-kilometre Lusaka-Ndola dual carriageway is scheduled for completion within four years. The road is being built by the China Jiangxi Corporation for International Economic and Technical Cooperation (CJIC), with a loan from the Export-Import Bank of China.
The project includes the construction of ‘bypass roads’ in Kabwe, the capital of the Zambian Central Province and the town of Kapiri Mposhi, north of Lusaka, together with a 45km Luanshya-Fisenge-Masangano link road.
Zambian president Edgar Lungu, who attended a roadworks inauguration ceremony in central Zambia's Chisamba district, said the project was a further indication of the country’s “friendship” with China, Xinhua reported.
Lungu said the road would play a vital role in allowing vehicles to travel between Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and other countries in southern African.
"Increased traffic on our roads due to the booming economic activities in various sectors, especially in the mining sector, requires an appropriate response such as this one," Lungu said.
According to Xinhua, China’s ambassador to Zambia, Yang Youming, said the project was needed because "Zambia is poised to become a transportation hub for the region" in view of its geographic location.
Meanwhile, the ambassador said China would continue to support investment in improving Zambia's infrastructure.
CJIC president Xu Guojian reportedly said the company has been part of more than 200 projects in Zambia since it entered the market in 1987.
China’s president Xi Jinping said last year, ahead of a summit of Chinese and African leaders opening in South Africa, that China would “help break Africa's twin development bottlenecks of inadequate infrastructure and human resources”.
Also last year, state-run Chinese firm the China Civil Engineering Construction Company was contracted to build a new 388km railway in Zambia at a cost of $2.3bn.
According to the World Bank’s Rural Access Index, only 17 percent of Zambia’s rural population live within 2km of a good road, “leaving about 7.5 million rural residents unconnected to the road network in the country”.
Last May, the World Bank approved a $200 million International Development Association credit to improve selected rural roads in six of Zambia’s 10 provinces. Zambia’s government is set to finance works in the remaining four provinces.