December 27, 2017
High expectations are apparent at the completion ceremony for the Kaaka Bridge, with even Guinean President Alpha Condé attending
It can be difficult to execute projects in developing countries, which sometimes have unstable social environments and security situations, while ensuring the safety of the people involved. JICA has been forced at times to make a decision to evacuate its staff from such a country or discontinue its projects. But there are some projects that have brought great joy to those involved by being completed after a temporary halt. The Kaaka Bridge on National Highway 1 in Guinea, which was finally built in June, is one of those successful projects.
The sharp curve of the Old Kaaka Bridge forced drivers to slow down
The Republic of Guinea is located on the west coast of Africa. National Highway 1 connects Conakry, the capital of Guinea, with other inland cities in the nation as well as surrounding countries. While the Kaaka Bridge on this highway has played an important role in transportation in the country, 60 years had passed since it was built and it was in a dangerous condition. In 2013, JICA started to provide support for the country to rebuild the bridge with the aim of securing safe traffic and transportation services. Construction work for the bridge was launched in March 2014.
However, around that time an Ebola epidemic began in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone in West Africa. Finally, five months after the start of construction, the World Health Organization, or WHO, officially declared the outbreak a “Public Health Emergency of International Concern” in August 2014. As a result, people involved in rebuilding the bridge were forced to suspend the work and leave the country for security reasons. Local people, who had high expectations for the project, were disappointed by the withdrawal. Also, staff engaged in the project had to leave the country with great reluctance.
With a gentle curve, the New Kaaka Bridge has a safe, linear shape
The project was restarted in April 2016, 20 months after the construction work was suspended. In addition to the original goal of rebuilding the important bridge on a major artery, the project gained a new purpose of encouraging Guinea to recover from the Ebola outbreak. As a result, this project became more important than ever for both Guinea and JICA.
Before a full-scale resumption of the construction, it took three months for people working on the project to not only repair construction equipment that had stopped working because of the long interruption, but also to procure anew materials and equipment whose quality had degraded.
A completion ceremony for the new Kaaka Bridge was held on June 15. The ceremony, which President Alpha Condé of Guinea attended, showed the high expectations of local people and the value they placed on the project.
“It was my greatest pleasure to complete the project while securing the safety of those involved,” says Jun Kamon
Jun Kamon, the former director of the Conakry office of Dai Nippon Construction, played a key role in rebuilding the bridge along with JICA.
He studied civil engineering at university and joined Dai Nippon Construction with a strong interest in overseas construction work. The Kaaka Bridge project was the first time in 25 years the company had worked on a project in Guinea. Since the company already had lost its former personal connections in the country, Mr. Kamon had to build an organization from scratch. Then, when the project was more than 20 percent complete, it was suddenly discontinued.
Applying his experiences in other developing countries, he succeeded in evacuating the people involved without any troubles.
He will never forget how after the construction work was suspended for 20 months because of the outbreak, he was reunited with all 120 workers, none of whom had been infected with the deadly Ebola virus, and they completed the project without any accidents by providing safety training many times. Now Mr. Kamon works in Tokyo, where he is in charge of follow-up work on 11 overseas projects.
“I want to continue to contribute to the growth of developing countries by providing support for construction projects while securing the safety of the people involved,” he says.
In addition to strengthening safety measures for people working on its projects, JICA has widely disseminated information on safety through its official website.