Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete has deplored the alarming rate of road crashes in the country, after the government invested heavily in improvement of the national transport system.
“Motorists must realise their great responsibility for public safety on all roads and highways. It is their reckless disregard for safety regulations that contributes to the high numbers of orphans and disabled persons besides the immense loss of the national workforce,” said the President.
President Kikwete was inaugurating a newly-tarred 32-km road linking the north-eastern town of Rombo Mkuu on the foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro to Tarakea on the Tanzania-Kenya border.
According to the President, accidents on Tanzania’s roads in 2011 claimed 3,981 lives and left 20,802 persons injured.
Road crashes in the first half of this year caused 1,808 deaths and injured 9,155 persons, he said.
“Most of these accidents were avoidable. Their principle causes were over-speeding, drunken driving and disregard of safety instructions and road signs.
“I hereby direct the Police Force to enforce traffic regulations, including withdrawal of driving licences of reckless drivers,” Kikwete said, urging the public to propose amendments to the existing traffic code if they saw it outdated.
Ongoing road construction projects total 11,154 km aiming to link the country’s major towns and all regional administrative centres with quality infrastructure for the movement of people and goods.
“Our goal is to open up opportunities for internal trade and development so that the majority of the population can raise their incomes and improve their standard of living,” President Kikwete said.
He challenged the residents of Kilimanjaro region to step up agricultural production and enter the neighbouring Kenyan market since road transport was no longer a limiting factor.
Tanzania has teamed up with a number of development partners, including the African Development Bank, the European Union and the World Bank, to improve roads leading to areas with high economic potential in agriculture, mining and tourism.
Available statistics show that only 28 percent of the rural population live within 2km of an all-weather road.
Trunk roads which are of strategic importance in the general economic growth as well as in fostering market linkages with neighbouring landlocked countries have approximately a total length of 12,786 km.
According to Tanzania’s Five-Year Development Plan 2011/2012-2015/2016, main challenges in road transport include inadequate integration of the road network and the markets and productive areas; unplanned urbanisation and traffic congestion in urban areas; institutional weakness in management in management of feeder roads; insufficient funds for construction and maintenance of roads; and inadequate capability of the local construction industry.
In order to mobilise sufficient internal resources for road maintenance, the government has set up a Road Fund which by 2005/2006 had a reserve of Tanzanian shillings 73.204 billion. (Currently 1US$=Tshs 1,575).