Road forms part of the Addis Abeba–Harar–Jijiga–Togowichale Corridor,
Akir Construction completes 353m Br construction six months later than planned
The 64.3km Jijiga–Togowichale road is set to be inaugurated this month following the completion of its construction after 3.5 years by Akir Construction Plc.
The road, which cost 353 million Br, is meant to ultimately connect Ethiopia to Berbera Port in Somaliland, located 937km from Addis Abeba.
The project was initially planned to include 18km in Somaliland but it was later dropped by the Ethiopian government, according to Melese Mamo, head of roadwork projects at Akir Construction, which was founded with a total capital of 20,000 Br in March 1987.
“Abandoning the road project from Togowichale [on the border] to Kelebit [in Somaliland] was partially due to the failure of the Somaliland authorities to solicit funds for the construction of the road, which is the worst maintained road in Somaliland and would have cost an additional 67 million Br,” he told Fortune.
The Somaliland government is trying to secure funds for the Togowichale–Berbera Port Corridor from sources which include the European Union (EU), according to Mohammed A. Omer, foreign minister of Somaliland. To date, Somaliland could only obtain funds to conduct a feasibility study on the project, according to the minister.
“The Somaliland government is approaching interested parties to fund the project which we believe could also connect the soon to be independent state of Southern Sudan via Ethiopia to the port,” Omer told Fortune.
Saudi Arabia is Somaliland’s largest trading partner, and the minister hoped the road projects would make Ethiopia Somaliland’s top trading partner in the near future.
“The road completion is great news for economic activities between Ethiopia and Somaliland,” Omer said. “It would make travel between the two easier and safer, especially since Ethiopian Airlines terminated flights from Addis Abeba to Hargeisa [the capital of Somaliland] in October 2008 over security fears following a series of terrorist attacks on government buildings.”
There exist possible security problems in both Ethiopia and Somaliland that could affect travel and commerce on this road.
While there may be extremist like Al-Shabab movements or Al-Qaida supporters who could be a threat to both countries, the Somaliland government is taking steps to eliminate the threat as well as threats from Eritrean supported Ethiopian rebel groups, the minister claimed.
Last year, more than 200 Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) insurgents landed on the beaches of Western Somaliland from Eritrea and most of them were caught and handed over to the Ethiopian authorities, according to Omer.
However, to create a booming and lively trade between the two sides, Ethiopian authorities should create a tax harmonisation policy with Somaliland and upgrade the Ethiopian side of Togochale Town to a district, as Somaliland did 18 month ago, according to Omer.
The Jijiga–Togowichale road was initially expected to be finished by October 2010, three years after construction started, but it was extended by six months to include an additional 18 culverts, according to Melese. Upon its completion, the head hoped the road would serve as more than a conduit for contraband goods and food aid.
Depending on the transportation costs it would reduce, the completion of the road could help restart its food transport programme from Somaliland, which it stopped in May 2010, according to Susannah Nicol, head of public information at the World Food Programme (WFP).
“We used to transport our food shipments from Berbera Port with Somali companies transporting consignments halfway before Ethiopian companies would take over,” she told Fortune. “Our operations through Djibouti Port are entirely covered by Ethiopian companies. We hope this new road will cut the costs incurred by the WFP to transport food aid from Djibouti to different parts of Ethiopia, which range between 500 Br per metric ton and 1,800 Br per metric ton.”
The road is the second construction project in Somali Regional State for Akir, which has a capital of 200 million Br and employs around 3,000 people, after it built the 82km Biredimtu–Eme Road that forms part of the 360km Ginir–Gode Road project, which commenced construction in July 2009 and is expected to be finished by January 2012.
Akir Construction, a general construction company specialising in the construction of roads, airport runways and terminals, as well as water supply projects, completed the Jijiga Airport runway at a cost of 63 million Br, in October 2008, and the Assosa Airport runway at a cost of 86 million Br, in March 2010.
It is also aiming to complete the Assosa Airport terminal at a cost of 41 million Br by April 2012, and started construction of a gravel runway for Kombolcha Airport at a cost of 34 million Br in September 2010.
The Jijiga–Togowichale Road forms part of the Addis Abeba–Harar–Jijiga–Togowichale Corridor, one of the five projects planned by the Ethiopian Roads Authority (ERA) to connect Ethiopia with its neighbours and their ports.
The Hageremariam–Mega and Hageremariam–Yabelo road projects in Oromia Regional State were recently awarded to Arab Contactors (Osman Ahmed Osman & Co), an Egyptian company, as part of the Addis Abeba–Nairobi–Mombasa corridor.
The 96km Assosa–Kumruk Road, to Sudan, is under construction in Benishangul Gumuz Regional State as part of the Addis Abeba–Nekempte–Assosa–Kumruk Corridor. The 124km Itang–Gikaw Road, to Southern Sudan, is under construction in Gambella Regional State as part of the Addis Abeba–Gambella–Itang–Gikaw Corridor.
The 185km Azezo–Metema Road in Amhara Regional State was completed in August 2010 as part of the Addis Abeba–Gonder–Azezo–Metema Corridor.
“We expect this road to primarily benefit residents of Somali Regional State and the neighbouring regions,” Dereje Hailu, team leader of the communications directorate at the ERA, told Fortune. “Once the road in Somaliland has been refurbished and upgraded and the capacity of Berbera Port has been increased, the road will access a significant alternative port to Ethiopia.”