- The United Kingdom has committed to doubling its funding for a road-building in the Democratic Republic of Congo to improve access to some of the world's most remote regions, UK Minister for Trade and Development Gareth Thomas announced on a visit today.
The DRC has one of the least developed roads networks in the world, with 95 percent of the country's 152,400 km of roads said to be just paths, making it difficult to get food, medicine and trade routes open. Only one out of ten of the provincial capitals are said to be easily accessible by road.
This severely hampers development prospects and has been cited as a reason the country is so poor. Of the 60 million citizens, around 45 million live below the poverty line, while one in seven children die before their fifth birthday, and every day nearly 100 Congolese mothers die in childbirth.
During his visit to the country, Africa Minister Gareth Thomas announced the Department for International Development would double its funding for road building programmes from £38 million to £76 million.
The road building programme will bring together the Department for International Development (DFID), the Government of the DRC, the World Bank and other donors to build, and maintain, the country's roads, which is key to helping to promote trade and investment, as well as security.
The ‘Pro-Routes' roads programme will amongst others also, support the DRC government to open and maintain between 2,500 km and 3,000 km of priority roads; provide better access to social services and markets; help the DRC to run its own road-building and maintenance programme, and also help the country to establish a ‘second generation road fund', through tax on petrol and diesel sales as well as boost the ability of private sector businesses to carry out road maintenance; and develop a forward-thinking road sector strategy which will ensure the continuation of the roads programme, and also set up a wide-ranging environmental and social strategy which will ensure the natural forest of the DRC, and the population, is protected.
“With an area the size of western Europe, it only has 2,000 km of paved roads, compared with 398,000 km in the UK. By doubling the amount of UKaid for the DRC's road building project, ordinary citizens and businesses will get better access not only to medical care and schools, and also to export markets, which will help lift the country out of poverty,” Minister Thomas said.
He further said with the global economic crisis hitting developing countries like the DRC hardest, and 45 million people living on less than 50 pence a day, new roads will bring the much-needed new development opportunities for the people of DRC, and help them live in peace and stability.
He also noted that studies have shown that in areas where there are no roads, bandits and rebels often commit crimes and then disappear into heavily forested areas to escape justice adding that roads allow soldiers and police better access to keep law and order.
The DRC, which has emerged from years of civil war and still struggling to deal away with rebels attacks, epically in the eastern part of the country, is heavily reliant on imports, even on items which it grows or supplies from within its own borders, because exports can be brought in more cheaply.
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