The country´s most neglected region, Shiselweni, can have something to smile about following reports that the African Development Bank’s Urban and Municipal Development Fund has approved a grant of over E7.5 Millions for the development of a new urban eco city

The Fund is partnering with the Eswatini Water and Agriculture Development Enterprise on a new urban planning project, closely linked with the development of a transformative agro-industrial hub which will boost economic activities and attract tens of thousands of workers. The Fund approved a grant of $400,000 to the “Eswatini New Eco-Green City Masterplan“ on 8 June this year.

The grant will support the planning of a new urban area in the Shiselweni region of the country, where population and economic activities are expected to proliferate over the next few years. The project includes the setting up of a special agro-processing zone, to be undertaken by the Eswatini Water and Agriculture Development Enterprise (ESWADE), as a public-private partnership.

The project will generate approximately 100, 000 jobs for workers, creating the need for housing, health and education services for workers and their families. The Shiselweni region faces the highest level of poverty in the country yet is very suitable for agricultural activity due to its rich soil. It is the driest region in Eswatini with an annual precipitation of 500 mm per annum.

Meeting with stakeholders of the “Eswatini New Eco-Green City Masterplan”, led by Eswatini Water and Agriculture Development Enterprise with support from the AfDB’s Urban and Municipal Development Fund. 16th February 2023.

Reducing drought vulnerability and developing economic activities is a priority for the government, which is planning the construction of three dams to enable irrigation. Called the Mkhondvo-Ngwavuma Water Augmentation Project (MNWAP), the plan is driven by a value-chain approach which includes agricultural diversification (horticulture, cotton, dry beans, oil crops) that will enable agro-processing and attract new industries and workers. One hurdle will be to accommodate the influx of workers stimulated by the growth of the agro-industrial complex.

A well-planned new eco-city is expected to provide high quality services for the population, stimulate economic diversification, create sustainable employment and reduce poverty in the area while safeguarding the environment. The Fund will assist with a development vision and strategy outlining the government’s aims and objectives.

It will also lend support to the development plan for the new Eco City and agro-processing zones linked to existing and future development initiatives. A master plan for the Eco City’s holistic development, including sustainable infrastructure needs assessment, pre-feasibility studies and investment packaging to support downstream investments by the African Development Bank and other partners, will also be addressed.

The Urban and Municipal Development Fund’s support will be key for the design of the development plan and to identify the non-agricultural elements of the project, including but not limited to energy and transportation.

The fund will support with the urban planning aspects of the project. "Climate adaptation and mitigation approaches and solutions will be at the center of the urban planning, solutions and sector investment development," Stated Marcus Mayr, UMDF coordinator, who presented the project during the Oversight Committee.

Meanwhile, the country´s commercial hub, Manzini, will finally surmount its through-traffic dilemma by building a highway extension to connect existing highways that terminate directly east and west of the central business district (CBD). The new stretch of highway will be a significant advantage to road freight operators who must drive through Manzini, which is centrally located within the small landlocked country.

The solution that planners have hit upon is to build the highway directly through town, just skirting the CBD, and doing so in a way that would not displace existing infrastructure. The seemingly impossible feat can be accomplished, planners have determined, by building the highway directly above the Mnzimene River that runs through Manzini from east to west.

From the new highway intersection to the east of the CBD that King Mswati III opened in June of 2023, the highway would follow the river to the site of the International Trade Fair. From there it will utilise an undeveloped section of land to travel further west where connection with the existing Manzini-Mbabane highway would be made around the Nazarene Intersection.

The plan requires the removal of a traffic stop at KaKhoza on Manzini’s western border to ensure unimpeded movement. No time frame or budget has yet been established for the project, which would finally bring relief to commercial vehicles that must currently spend about 15 minutes in stop-and-go traffic, burning diesel, whenever they make the unavoidable passage through Manzini.

The high volume of traffic is set to be eased with the new highway meant to bypass the CBD

This has been an issue for decades – how to channel travel through Manzini, so it never stops for a traffic light and can proceed unhindered at high speed,” Simpiwe Malaza, assistant city planner for the Municipal Council of Manzini, told Freight News at the recent Manzini International Trade Fair.

The highway link will allow unimpeded highway-speed travel for Gauteng to Eswatini’s Oshoek-Ngwenya border with South Africa, enabling free-flow traffic through Manzini to the Lomahasha-Namaacha border with Mozambique on the road to the Port of Maputo.

The challenge has always been where to place the highway,” Malaza said.

Traffic from the Maputo side leaves the MR3 highway now at the new interchange east of the CBD and travels on the bypass road north of the CBD and connects with the Manzini-Mbabane highway west of the CBD – but vehicles encounter traffic stops. Building a highway outside of the city either north or south would lengthen the cross-country trip and be disruptive to areas it must pass through,” Malaza added.

NB: Stories sourced from the internet from the Southern Africa Freight News website and Afdb website