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Gabon: The African Development Bank’s funding improves conditions for those living by the country's main trunk road
Hermann Nzondo drives a taxi. He grimaces when he mentions the former National Highway 1: "Back then, the 119-km journey from Lambaréné to Mouila was not easy. You could only do it in a 4x4. But since they surfaced the road, a taxi can do the return journey in two hours instead of five”.
Traffic conditions have improved hugely on this road since 2014, when it was refurbished thanks to an African Development Bank funding package of €260 million. The purpose was to modernise 250 km of roads in Gabon. Along the length of National Highway 1, five bridges and 17 clinics have been built, and 33 boreholes have been drilled, transforming the lives of Hermann Nzondo and many others living near the road.
"When they renovated the road, they installed a borehole and I now have a water supply close by. I don't have to make a journey to fetch water," explained Anselme Momby, a nurse at Guidouma. "I have even moved to live next to the clinic. If there is a patient emergency at night, they can call me and I can attend very easily." His clinic has been fitted with solar panels that provide it with an electrical supply.
Ten kilometres further on, in the village of Mandilou, Monique Guisegou draws water from a borehole installed by the road just a few metres from her home. "The first pump was foot-operated and that meant you had to use your whole body. It was painful. Now, the new pump makes it easy for everyone to draw water," the 60 year-old explained with a broad smile.
The first phase of the Gabon Road network improvement programme has included the renovation of its Fougamou-Mouila (119 km), Leyou-Lastoursville (97 km) and Ndendé-Lébamba (37 km) sections. The first section, towards the Congo border, is a major link in the Ndjaména-Yaoundé-Brazzaville regional integration corridor, and is one of the priority projects under the New Partnership for Africa's Development.
One of the programme’s achievements has been to improve people's quality of life, reduce school and hospital staff absenteeism rates by 50%, and bring about a 70% improvement in accessibility to social and educational facilities. Another has been to reduce vehicle operating costs and imp[rove road transport safety and access to socioeconomic and health facilities in isolated provinces.
National Highway 1 is vital to the Gabonese economy: it is the transit for the majority of agricultural and food products consumed in Gabon and produced in Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea. Carrying high traffic loads, this trunk road is subject to very bad weather in its eastern section, which often needs repairing.
"Construction of the road has provided access to some areas that we hadn't been able to reach previously to raise public awareness of AIDS," said Julien Mikolo, an educator, farmer and entrepreneur in Mouila. He heads a health centre covering a 40 km radius.
To improve his business and take advantage of National Highway 1, he has invested in the construction of a motel. "For travellers who want to or have to stop, this will be a place where they can get some rest in peace and quiet," he said.