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Madagascar starts works on first motorway

Launch of works to build Madagascar's first motorway   -  
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Authorities in Madagascar have started works on the country's first motorway linking the capital, Antananarivo, to Tamatave, the country's economic hub and largest port.

Egyptian company Samcrete will be in charge of the 4-year project for a budget of nearly $1 billion.

"The highway will allow us to relieve the congestion of the national road number 2 because in fact it is estimated that the traffic will be multiplied by 5 in the next three years. So it will be unbearable for the national road number 2 to handle this extra traffic", said Public Works Minister of Madagascar, Jerry Hatrefindrazana.

The project has sparked controversy amongst the population. Farmers are one group particularly affected.

"We are in the middle of the rice transplanting period, right at the moment when our rice fields will be destroyed. And we have been waiting for the state to take action for us farmers. In all the speeches, no official spoke about the farmers", complained farmer Roland Edie Rakotodramasy.

Others, like teacher Pauline Ramialisoa, remain convinced about the overall benefits.

"Traffic will be faster, cars will not use much gasoline, and the transport of goods from inside and outside will be more fluid", she said

One of the Egyptian companies involved in the project, EGAAD, stressed the environmental advantages of the new infrastructure.

"This highway that will link the capital to the main port, the economic hub of the country, will ease a lot of things, reducing an 11-hour journey to a 2.5-hour journey. It will help to reduce CO2 emissions by 25 to 30%", claims EGAAD group president, Reda Boulos.

The first stage of the project is scheduled to be completed by the end of the president's mandate in 2023.

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