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Politics | 13.11.2018

AfricaLink on Air - 13 November 2018

Mozambique opens Africa's longest suspension bridge

A bridge spanning 680 meters

The entire construction, including two smaller bridges on the north and south sides, is 3 kilometers (1.86 miles) long. One of China's biggest state-owned companies, the China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC), designed and delivered the project and the build quality was monitored by German engineering firm Gauff.

Mozambique opens Africa's longest suspension bridge

North side: Maputo

On the north side the structure crosses into the Mozambican capital, Maputo. The bridge was initially supposed to be completed in 2017 but construction continued to November 2018. Two 141-meter pylons form the bridge's shape and anchor blocks weighing 170,000 tons on either side of the bridge balance the weight of the suspension cables.

Mozambique opens Africa's longest suspension bridge

South side: Katembe

The bridge links the capital with the southern side of Maputo Bay and the town of Katembe. A road along the Indian Ocean leads to the South African border. The connecting road was also upgraded from gravel to asphalt, significantly shortening the travel time to South Africa's KwaZulu-Natal Province.

Mozambique opens Africa's longest suspension bridge

Constructed partly in China

The bridge's roadway was built in China in 12-meter long segments and then shipped to the building site in Maputo. The center of the bridge is a 25 meters wide and perches about 40 meters above the water, high enough to allow large ships to pass underneath. The total costs of the project is estimated at about €635 million ($720 million).

Mozambique opens Africa's longest suspension bridge

Controversial area

The space under the northern side of the bridge around the Avenide 24 de Julho caused construction delays for months. The site was the location of Nwakakana Market and vendors initially refused to leave the area. There was also conflict with the state-owned construction company Empresa de Desenvolvimento Maputo Sul and the city of Maputo over who would cover compensation costs.

Mozambique opens Africa's longest suspension bridge

Resettlements due to construction

People had to move away from this area to make way for the bridge. Many were families who had fled the Mozambican Civil War and found refuge in the area. They eventually accepted compensation and moved to the neighboring county of Moamba in western Maputo Province. Thereafter construction of the bridge could continue without interruption.

Mozambique opens Africa's longest suspension bridge

Difficult ferry crossings no longer necessary

Until now all the traffic over Maputo Bay depended on ferries. When the ferries were out of commission, as was often the case, commuters had to make a 100-kilometer round trip by road. The bridge makes crossing the bay considerably easier.

Mozambique opens Africa's longest suspension bridge

Unsafe ferry ports

Ferries from Katembe docked at this quay, where people and vehicles were taken on board. Many passengers found the journey uncomfortable and are enthused by the prospect of quick taxi rides across the bridge.

Mozambique opens Africa's longest suspension bridge

Katembe harbor

Katembe harbor on the other side of the bay is also hardly user friendly. Only cars and light utility vehicles were allowed onto the ferries due to safety concerns. Heavy trucks where completely banned and had to make the long round trip to reach the capital.

Mozambique opens Africa's longest suspension bridge

More access by road

The bridge is part of a new road system that connects Maputo with its southern and southwestern districts. China's state bank, Exim-bank, financed the construction and other large scale projects, such as the new ring road around Maputo, with a loan. The main construction partner again is the China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC).

Mozambique opens Africa's longest suspension bridge

Tolls

The Mozambican government is trying to recoup some of the construction costs through this toll plaza. The road taxes start at about €2,30 for motorcycles and small vehicles and rise to about €17 for heavy vehicles. The popular minibuses get a 75 percent discount.

Mozambique opens Africa's longest suspension bridge

Megaproject criticized

Critics say many other infrastructure projects should have been given priority over the bridge. The construction boom in Mozambique is concentrated in Maputo, while the central and northern regions of the country are being left behind. Some areas lack sealed roads even though the majority of Mozambicans live in those areas. 

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