• Contract signed with Geiger of Austria, China Harbour
  • Beitbridge to Chirundu highway connects north, south borders

Zimbabwe has agreed to a $2.7 billion deal with companies from Austria and China to upgrade the country’s busiest road linking South Africa with countries to the north.

The contract was agreed with closely held Geiger International of Austria and state-owned China Harbour Engineering Company Ltd., Transport Minister Joram Gumbo told reporters in capital, Harare, on Monday. The companies will operate a 20-year concession for the stretch of road from Beitbridge on the southern border to Harare, while the renewal of the northern section to Chirundu will be funded with loans from the private sector, he said.

The highway has fallen into a state of disrepair as heavy-duty trucks use it to transport everything from corn to mining and power-plant equipment from South Africa to other parts of the continent. The renewal of the Plumtree-Mutare road that runs from Zimbabwe’s western to eastern borders was completed at a cost of about $3 billion last year by South Africa’s Group Five Ltd.

Zimbabwe’s economy, suffering its worst economic crisis since 2008, has left the government unable to pay civil servants’ wages on time and delayed payment to troops, with 83 percent of revenues collected going to salary payments. The southern African country missed its own deadline to repay $1.8 billion to the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and African Development Bank by June 30.

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