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Op-ed: China-Sierra Leone relations lead to major road development and benefits

By Abu Bakarr Kargbo (People's Daily Online)    13:47, June 22, 2020

Sierra Leone has an estimated 11,300 km of roads, of which the most important are highways. And in terms of roads, the Wellington-Masiaka Highway is Sierra Leone's greatest infrastructural undertaking. 

China-Sierra Leone ties have led to the realisation that modern highways can effectively promote national economic development and play a direct leading role in the fields of transportation, industry and commerce. They are crucial and relevant to the development of education and medical treatment. 

The 61.8-kilometer Wellington-Masiaka Highway, constructed by China Railway Seventh Group (CRSG), offers Sierra Leoneans unique infrastructural opportunities with massive social, economic and financial benefits. One of the major benefits of this project is the reduction in the travel time between Freetown and Masiaka. Before this project, travelling from Freetown to Masiaka used to be painstakingly difficult and arduous. Travelers spent hours making the journey, adversely affecting schedules and businesses. With the highway now expanded and up and running, users can make the trip in an hour. This has eased travelers’ burdens and improved efficiency of traffic, work life as well as reducing costs and time. 

Another remarkable benefit of the Wellington-Masiaka Highway is the improvement in road safety. The two-way separation drive has greatly reduced the occurrence of accidents. There has been an encouraging drop in road accident numbers, both fatal and non-fatal. Before the project, accidents were a common sight on the road and most of them were fatal. This was primarily due to the narrowness of the road. With the expansion of the road to a four-way lane, vehicles can now move freely in the same direction, thereby eliminating the worrisome and frequent cases of head-on collisions. 

In addition to the above benefits, the Wellington-Masiaka Highway will reduce vehicle operating costs. This means that the amount of fuel consumption will be drastically reduced, the need to buy spare parts will be minimized, the amount of money spent on vehicle repair at garages will also be massively reduced, the lifespan of tyres will increase, and most importantly, more trips will be generated by vehicles on this stretch than before. 

Highways can also encourage drivers to get rid of bad habits, such as overspending, overloading and refitting vehicles, leading to an improvement in road safety. 

As if the above benefits are not enough, the Wellington-Masiaka highway has created job opportunities for citizens. It's reported that nearly 1,000 jobs have been created in the past four years during the construction of the highway. At the same time, as the first toll highway in Sierra Leone's history, the new model has created new types of jobs. Now, every customer using the highway can enjoy good, regular and efficient services while enjoying convenient transportation. More jobs bring good pay, skill upgrading and personal development. 

The Wellington-Masiaka highway has led to the decongestion of Freetown. More and more people continue to gravitate towards the highway corridors, as they know that it will take far less time to travel from those settlements along the road corridor than before, and that this movement can be done in comfort. In addition, the road has improved citizens' social and economic lives. It has made access to medical facilities to those in critical need very easy, and has accelerated the movements of goods and services. Furthermore, it has laid the platform for the emergence of economic areas along the road, with more people establishing businesses. It has substantially increased economic activity in Freetown and the suburbs or areas along the highway, and has contributed to economic growth throughout the country.  

The Wellington-Masiaka Highway provides aesthetic pleasure to both foreigners and locals, which is a positive sign of development in the country. This beautiful highway and advanced toll plaza facilities have resulted in a unique landscape. The road has improved the overall beauty of Freetown and become a "landmark" construction of Sierra Leone, deepening the impression left by the whole city and even the whole country on the world. 

We have learned that CRSG faced various challenges and difficulties in the process of construction and operation, especially during COVID-19. Despite these obstacles, they still ensured the construction progress with high quality, creating a miracle for our country and people. Their efforts have allowed our people to enjoy the benefits of the road. At the same time, during our toughest times, CRSG reduced the toll charges for 90 days as part of the company's efforts to support the government and our people in the fight against the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic. It truly demonstrates the responsibility of an international partner and the significance of a community of shared future for mankind. 

This kind of partner is a real brother. We need this kind of highway project, and we need brothers like this. 

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: Hongyu, Bianji)

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