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Feature: Mozambique anticipates landmark Chinese-built suspension bridge set for launch in June

by Xinhua writers Zhu Shaobin and Nie Zuguo

MAPUTO, May 12 (Xinhua) -- A twin-tower suspension bridge with a main span of 680 meters hanging over Maputo Bay is decorating the skyline of southern African nation Mozambique's capital city Maputo, becoming a new landmark project that will ease the city's cross-sea traffic.

The project, costing 785.8 million U.S. dollars with 95 percent of the funding from China, is being built by the China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC) and set for official launch on June 25, Mozambique's Independence Day.

As the sun sets to one side of the bay and colors the bridge with a golden hue, 20-year-old Mozambican crew-driver worker Fernando was wrapping up his day's work at the bridge, and sent a hello greeting "ni hao" in Chinese upon seeing us.

Due to his family's financial burden, the youth said he's working at the bridge to make some savings so that he can apply for a public university. "I am working at the bridge to build my future," he said.

"My biggest dream is to travel to London and study in Oxford University. But Mandarin is also important. There are many Chinese people working in Mozambique. So next year, I will also learn the Chinese language so that I will be able to better work around the Chinese," he said while getting excited about the imminent launch of the bridge.

"It's a wonderful and fantastic bridge! People now depend on the boats and ferry to get across the water to the Katembe district at the other side. The boat takes a long time and is dangerous," he said.

Project manager at CRBC Cao Changwei has been in charge of the project since construction commenced in 2014. He said the bridge will cut travel time between Maputo and the under-developed Katembe urban district to about ten minutes compared to up to three hours by ferry or driving around the bay by circumventing.

According to him, the whole bridge project also involves the construction of link roads totaling 187 km that will link southward to the border area with South Africa.

"It will greatly shorten the travel time between Mozambique and South Africa and become a major international passageway that will boosts Mozambique's passenger and cargo transport, tourism as well as economic growth along the project," Cao said.

"Many people now buy land in Katembe to make business because of this bridge. The economy in Katembe will develop very much," Fernando said.

According to the CRBC, the local government is planning to develop the Katembe district through various ways, including land development, tourism, commercial services, logistics and modern industries.

Cao revealed that the project so far has created over 20,000 jobs, both full time and part time, for the locals. Currently, the project hires 3,788 local people compared to a Chinese staff team of 467.

Meanwhile, CRBC also trained over 5,000 locals for various job posts required for the project, including welding, steel bending and machinery operation, Cao said.

"My new house is almost ready for use. I will get some new furniture once I get my salary this month," said 40-year-old Morgado, who is a driver working at the project.

Growing up in a family with four siblings in Katembe, Morgado had a difficult childhood as his parents barely made ends meet by selling cassava starch. He also went through much toil-and-moil by working odd jobs.

"I worked in South Africa for five years but my life was still difficult. But after I worked in CRBC, my life changed, he said, without hiding his joy that he and his wife Percilia now can even make savings in the family.

Meanwhile, Fermando told Xinhua that even though his father wanted him to study engineering, he has decided to pursue language studies. "I will learn more English and Chinese to enhance my chances," he beamed.

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