Economically Productive Commuting; They Want Peace Much More

After decades of conflict, South Sudan was born in 2011, but with undulating challenges that needed redress to create a conducive environment for economic growth.
A highway construction being finalized by ARC in South Sudan

By Benjamin Takpiny 

After decades of conflict, South Sudan was born in 2011, but with undulating challenges that needed redress to create a conducive environment for economic growth. 

Road networks were a major problem to be resolved but again between 2013 and 2018, another internal conflict meant they became more risky to travel on, and left unattended to, simply impassable. 

With the roads in sorry states, the conflict raging across the country and ambushes awash, many travelers lost their lives while the bad tracks gave them nightmares on the journeys. 

For taxi driver Kot Ayom, eating the miles on a daily basis needed the highest level of bravery. “Before this road was constructed, we used to take two days to reach Yirol but now maximum of 5 hours, I am already in Yirol,” Ayom told The Dawn in an interview in Juba.

The road he referred to is the 400 Juba-Bahr el Ghazal highway under construction.  From Juba to Rumbek, it’s being constructed by Shangdong Hi-Speed, a Chinese company contracted by South Sudan government to tarmac the stretch. They have constructed one of the safest and most standards roads in South Sudan.

A highway constructed by ARC in South Sudan

After the peace accord was signed in 2018 and a transitional government ushered in to steer away South Sudan from conflicts, risks have minimized and such constructions are creating easy access across the country. The peace created in South Sudan, massive road rehabilitations and security means Ayom can now beat the distances he would covers in days during the conflict in just hours.

“I can driver from Juba to Wau in one day but before it can take me one week to reach,” he said.

“Our suffering on that road has been rescued really,” he said. “I really appreciate the government and all those companies who are doing construction on the road and I want them to move very fast so that we will not encounter any challenges when we are doing our business.”

Roads are the arteries through which the economy pulses. By linking producers to markets, workers to jobs, students to school, and the sick to hospitals, roads are vital to any development agenda. 

In China, it is one of the priorities to shore development. Over the past decade, China’s transportation infrastructure network – including road, rail, waterway, and airport systems – has undergone unprecedented growth in terms of length and quality according to The World Economic Forum. China has been a role model in developing highways and as of 2021, the length of China’s highways exceeded 169,100 kilometers, it said.

Several roads are undergoing massive uplifts in South Sudan after the guns went silent. Others include the Juba-Bor highway and the Juba-Nadapal highway. Fear of attacks have also been negated by the improved security, according to Ayom.

“This construction has really improved our business as drivers because you can go to places like Yirol within 5 hours and come back the same day,” he said. “Before, we didn’t move at night because your car might get stuck somewhere and if its night hours, there is fear  but now anytime you want to move , you can move because the road is okay, and you will reach safely to your final destination without fear on the road,” the 25 year old told The Dawn.

Like him, Peter Machar, a 28 year old driver who also plies the highway from Juba to Bahr el Ghazal is enthusiastic about the improved highway. “Before, when the road was not good, it would take a whole day to cover a short distance like Juba to Terekeka or Terekeka to Yirol but now you can move straight, without fear from Juba to Yirol or Rumbek as long as you have passengers or goods,” Machar said. “Having a good road comes with business opportunities. I am now able to take people without difficulty from Juba to Yirol and Rumbek.”

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