In the early 2010s, Godelive Ngalula, a trader from Kikwit, the main town of Kwilu Province in the Democratic Republic of Congo, spent a week to travel the 350 kilometres (km) to Tshikapa in Kasaï Province and 50,000 Congolese francs (about $24.5) on food. A decade later, the situation has changed. “The trip takes only about a day thanks to the better road. Travel costs have dropped from $80 to $20 and I spend only 2,000 Congolese francs, or $1, on food,” she says happily.
Madeleine Mahamba lives in Lukaka in Kasai Province and no longer has the anxious task of collecting drinking water every day. Where she had to walk five km from her village to the Makode spring early every morning, she now has to take only a few steps from home to collect enough water for her needs. “It took us almost two hours to go there and back,” she says. “Now, we no longer have to worry about getting water. We have enough to drink even when we are working in the fields.”
The two agricultural areas of Kikwit and Lukaka have benefited from two road improvements that have opened them up and improved daily life for the local people. Financed by the African Development Bank, the projects upgraded the 56 km of the Lovua‑Tshikapa section of the Batshamba-Tshikapa road and the 87 km of the Tshikapa-Kamuesha section of the Tshikapa-Mbuji road, as well as related agricultural and rural infrastructure.
The first project was carried out in rural areas between Lovua and Katshongo (47 km) and in the town of Tshikapa, which is 9 km further on, a total of 56 km from Lovua to Tshikapa. The second project focused on the 87 km of the Tshikapa-Kamuesha section in Kasai Province of central and eastern DRC.
Approved in 2012 by the directors of AfDB Group, the first road project, which is 99.3% complete and due for completion in 2022, benefited from concessional financing of $99.3 million from the African Development Fund. The second project, which was approved in 2014 and is 95% complete and scheduled to conclude next year, received $105.8 million from the Bank Group. Some related works, such as the access ramps on the Lovua River (Shambwanda-Tshikapa axis, 75 km), are already complete.
“Thanks to these works, people now live less than two kilometres from an all-weather road,” says Solomane Koné, AfDB Deputy Director General for Central Africa and DRC Country Manager. “Vehicle traffic had grown dramatically, as travel time from Kinshasa and Kikwit was greatly reduced. This has revitalized the local economy (…) There are now plenty of manufactured and food products. Overall prices for goods and the cost of living in Tshikapa and Kamuesha have fallen.”
Along the upgraded road, the Bank has built and equipped schools, health centres, and multifunctional centres. One beneficiary is Philomène Mwamba, the coordinator of the Association for the Defence of the Rights of Children, Women, and the Oppressed. Her satisfaction with the improvements is plain to see: “It’s an old dream that has come true!” Her association now offers apprenticeship and professional coaching courses in tailoring, carpentry and shoemaking. “We can increase the number of courses and give everyone the opportunity to register. We would like to thank the African Development Bank,” she says.