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A construction project changing lives in South Africa

The Msikaba Bridge has anchor blocks 17 m wide which contain around 21,000 tons of concrete. (Image source: Sanral)

The ongoing delivery of the N2 Wild Cost Road (N2WCR) in South Africa has been lauded for its impact on the local community even before the effects of its fulfilment have been felt

The multibillion rand project has been described as one of the most ambitious in the history of the South African National Roads Agency Limited (SANRAL), entailing a 410 km road from East London to the Mtamvuna River on the border of the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal provinces. Included is a major upgrade of existing roads within this stretch (which has been underway since 2011) and the construction of new ‘greenfield’ sections (beginning in 2016).

Since conception, SANRAL and government officials have been keen to emphasise how the project will serve as a catalyst for commercial development in the region, with SANRAL stating it offers “a significant economic injection for local communities.” It cited that 30% of expenditure earmarked for targeted enterprise subcontractors and suppliers will result in more than R4bn (approx. US$213mn) flowing to SMMEs and that construction work will create approximately 8,000 direct full time employment opportunities as well as between 21,300-28,100 indirect jobs (in addition to operational work when the road is completed).

Southern Africa mega bridges

Perhaps nowhere is the positive impact of N2WCR as prevalent than in the most striking of the greenfield projects being delivered: the Mtentu and Msikaba mega bridges.

Construction work on the former began in the earnest in August 2023 at the hands of a joint venture between China Communications Construction Company and MESCSA Construction. An estimated budget of R4.05bn (approx. US$216mn) has been set aside for its delivery and is expected to conclude at the end of 2027 when it will take the mantle of being the highest bridge in Africa and one of the longest main-span balanced cantilever bridges in the world (boasting a main span of 260 m at a maximum height of 223 m).

Further down the line, two pylons of the R.175bn (approx. US$94mn) Msikaba Bridge have emerged to strike an imposing figure either side of the 580 m gorge in rural Eastern Cape. Having been under construction by CME JV, a partnership between Concor Construction and MECSA, since the end of 2018 the project continues to take shape and is expected to be finally completed near the end of 2025.

The two became the recent subject of a speech delivered by Eastern Cape Premier Oscar Mabuyane at his State of the Province Address as he emphasised how the construction sector is set to improve economic growth, mobility and create jobs. He said, “These two mega projects have special meaning to us because they’re located in the most impoverished and underdeveloped districts in the province. Their construction is already changing the lives of our people in Alfred Nzo and OR Tambo in unimaginable ways.”


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