- The 50-kilometre bridge on the Indian Ocean, which will facilitate the transportation of goods and people, will be the first in Africa, but some experts insisted yesterday that a proper economic analysis should be given priority
Dar es Salaam. The government’s plan to build a bridge that will connect the Mainland with the Zanzibar Islands has attracted different opinions from experts, some of whom have warned about the procedure lest it becomes a loss for the taxpayer.
The 50-kilometre bridge on the Indian Ocean, which will facilitate the transportation of goods and people, will be the first in Africa, but some experts insisted yesterday that a proper economic analysis should be given priority. However, Zanzibar’s President, Dr Hussein Mwinyi, disclosed yesterday that his government has yet to receive an official communication regarding the construction of the bridge between Zanzibar and Dar es Salaam.
Speaking to journalists at a monthly press briefing at State House in Zanzibar, Dr Mwinyi said there was a certain company that had contacted the Union government regarding the construction of the 50-kilometre bridge. On Friday, the deputy minister for Works and Transport, Mr Godfrey Kasekenya, told the Parliament that talks about the planned construction that began on March 11, 2023, were in advanced stages. He said the two parties to the Union had met with the prospective investors of M/S China Overseas Engineering Group Company (COVEC), who have shown interest in building the bridge.
He said the outcome of the meeting was still being worked on by both parties in mainland Tanzania and Zanzibar.
“This is going to further strengthen and simplify trade between the mainland and the islands,” Dr Mtebe Geofrey, who is an expert at the National Institute of Transport (NIT), told The Citizen yesterday.
According to Dr Juma Ntigaigwa, a senior civil engineer based in Mwanza, nothing can fail where there is political will, financial resources, and the cooperation of all sectors (public and private). “It is quite possible to connect the mainland and Zanzibar by road, but there must be the willingness of the government to cooperate with the private sector because the cost and expertise required are huge. There must be a strategy that will ensure that if another President comes, the plan will continue unabated,” he warned. Dr Janeth Mbozi, an economist and consultant, said that mega projects must be evaluated and their economic benefits checked effectively to avoid having white elephant projects. “The main goal should not be strengthening the union politically, but more economically,” she said.
“Local engineers, economists, and environmental experts should survey the countries where such bridges have been built so that they can determine the real cost and impact on the environment,” she noted.
“Will the presence of the bridge be productive? Is there a current transportation challenge? These are some of the questions that every stakeholder should ask themselves,” she urged. The idea of the bridge first came up in 2020, when some Tanzanians in diaspora introduced a plan to construct a sea bridge to link the two sides.