January 9, 2017
A truck on the East-West Highway
JICA's "East-West Highway Improvement Project" has been underway in Georgia since 2009 and is nearing completion. The East-West Highway is part of an international highway that crosses the country of Georgia east to west along the shortest route connecting Central Asia with Europe. The improvements from this project not only help to improve transportation within Georgia but are also expected to benefit economic development in the entire Caucasus region, for example with more efficient transportation of international cargo.
TRACECA, a multi-regional and cooperative transportation corridor that crosses the Eurasia Continent east to west, including Georgia
The East-West Highway improvement portions in Georgia. The red line is the portion to be completed this time
Junction on the East-West Highway
Georgia declared independence from former Soviet Union in 1991. The area is about one-fifth of that of Japan, with a population of approximately 4,000,000. Although it is a small country compared to Japan, because of its proximity to Russia and the Middle East, it is considered an important location in geopolitics. The country is advancing solidly in the direction of democracy and a market-based economy. The state government is now working on economic reform and inviting investments from foreign countries, aiming to become a distribution hub for the Caucasus region.
Roadways are the lifeline of Georgia's economy, covering over 40 percent of cargo and over 90 percent of passenger transportation. The East-West Highway runs for around 460 kilometers and is considered the most important highway in the country.
The East-West Highway is an important part of the international highway, Transport Corridor Europe Caucasus Asia (TRACECA). TRACECA starts in Kazakhstan in Central Asia, passes through Kyrgyz Republic, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, crosses the Caspian Sea and Azerbaijan, spans Georgia east to west, then travels across the Black Sea, Odessa in Ukraine, and finally Europe from the North.
Since 2009, in collaboration with the ADB, World Bank, European Investment Bank and others, and in agreement with the country of Georgia, JICA has been working on improving an approximately 57-kilometer portion of the East-West Highway from Zestafoni to Kutaisi and Samtredia.
The opening of the East-West Highway will greatly benefit industries, drastically cutting traveling and transportation time and allowing agricultural producers to reach markets faster. It is also expected to mitigate traffic congestion in urban areas by bypassing cities.
The portion JICA will complete this time is adjacent to another portion that is still unimproved. JICA is considering further aid, together with the ADB, World Bank and European Investment Bank, to help complete the entire East-West Highway.
Portion near the capital, completed with support from another institute
Tbilisi, capital of Georgia
In May this year, JICA opened a JICA Georgia Office, its first office in the Caucasus, as a base for cooperation projects in the three countries of Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan.
The opening reception of the Georgia Office was held in June, where Shinichi Kitaoka, President of JICA, became the first JICA President to visit Georgia. The event was an opportunity to reconfirm the importance of Japan's cooperation in the Caucasus region.
Yukihiko Ejiri, Resident Representative of the new office, said, "It is easy for foreigners to work in Georgia, so we are looking into collaborations with volunteer groups and NGOs. We also hope to support the two main industries—tourism and wine." JICA will be able to initiate more projects with a base in the region, going beyond the conventional economic infrastructure improvements it has provided thus far, to support the development of Georgia and the Caucasus.
Locally produced wine, one of the top industries along with tourism