Gov’t, Japan Sign US$50m Somalia Drive Grant

The Governments of Liberia and Japan today signed a US$50 million agreement for the reconstruction and expansion of the Somalia Drive. The Somalia Drive is an important economic road link that stretches from the commercial sector of Red Light in Paynesville outside Monrovia to the economic sector of Freeport on the Bushrod Island.

Monday’s signing ceremony followed a Detailed Design Agreement that was signed in March of this year between both governments.

Foreign Minister Augustine Kpehe Ngafuan signed on behalf of the Liberian Government while Naoto Nikai, Ambassador of Japan accredited to Liberia signed for his government.

Speaking after the signing ceremony, Foreign Minister Ngafuan said, “We consider the Somalia Drive project a landmark because it is a major artery of Liberia’s trade corridor; that is, from the Freeport of Monrovia to the ever busy Red Light Market.  It is expected that the completion of this project will alleviate traffic congestion and improve road worthiness in Monrovia and its environs, which translate to the reduction of transaction cost for the production and movement of goods and services, and ultimately contribute to the overall economic development of Liberia”.

Upon completion, it is estimated that the traffic time at peak hour between Freeport and Red Light will be reduced from almost one hour as of now to about 20 minutes while direct beneficiaries of the project would be the road users and residents whose population is about 300,000 while indirectly benefitting Monrovia’s 1.2 million inhabitants.

The construction is expected to begin this dry season, with full completion expected in three years.

Foreign Minister Ngafuan noted that the signing of the Grant Aid Agreement manifests the overarching theme of the recently concluded 5th session of the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD V) held in Yokohama, Japan. The conference was titled ‘Hand In Hand With A More Dynamic Africa’ which he said fulfills Category II of the Yokohama Action Plan 2013-2017 that focuses on ‘Acceleration Infrastructure and Capacity Development in Africa’.

The Foreign Minister also extolled the long-standing and reliable friendship and bilateral cooperation subsisting between Liberia and Japan, spanning over 61 years, making Japan-Liberia’s longest standing partner in the Asian region.

Minister Ngafuan averred that the immediate resumption of bilateral and technical cooperation between both countries since the end of the Liberian civil war has led to the implementation of a number important social and economic projects in Liberia including  the inception of Japanese Food and Petroleum Aid to Liberia, provision of US$9 million education grant, the rehabilitation of the Liberian-Japanese Friendship Maternity Center, the provision of medical equipment, dispatch of Japanese health experts to Liberia, and the human capacity training for more than 100 Liberian government officials in Japan.

He also named the utilization of the Japanese Counterpart Fund for the purchase and distribution of paddy and seed rice to smallholder farmers, the ongoing rehabilitation of the Monrovia Power System, and now, the construction of Somalia Drive as other dividends of the Liberia-Japan relations. He then expressed optimism to harnessing the soon-to-be launched Japan-Liberia Partnership Dialogue which is expected to take place by the second half of this year. The Partnership Dialogue, according to him, will establish the framework for expanding both countries’ engagement to areas of real growth drivers, including trade and investment.

Foreign Minister Ngafuan said, “Liberia’s post-war development success story can never be fully told without recognition of the role of the government and people of Japan, through the consistent support.”

Earlier, Japanese Ambassador Nikai said he believed that the project will be one of the symbolic projects which represent the friendly relations between Japan and Liberia, suggesting that the Liberian people would consider to name the road the ‘Japan-Liberia Friendship Road’ once completed.

“The Project requires some levels of cooperation from the nearby residents. While entreating the local residents to bear with any inevitable inconveniences, I would also appeal to the stakeholders to try and reduce the inconveniences to the best minimum level”, the Japanese Envoy added.

JICA Resident Representative, Iamura, said it was the agency’s pleasure to be able to respond to the urgent need of the expansion of Somalia Drive as the Project “is indeed very meaningful to JICA.”

Other Liberian Government officials including Acting Public Works Minister Victor Smith, Acting Information Minister Isaac Jackson and Montserrado County Representatives Richmond Anderson and Saah Joseph as well as the Commissioners of the Township of Gardnersville and New Georgia were in attendance at the signing ceremony held at the Foreign Ministry on Capitol Hill.