Road infrastructure developments to connect Africa

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As part of the growth strategy, most sub-Saharan African countries focus on infrastructural development and investment as Jumia Travel has learnt. However quality of roads and railway networks lag far behind the rest of the world. Main connecting roads remain unpaved and the once constructed are in poor outdated condition due to lack of renovation.
These manifest, coupled with burdensome trade regulations, has raised the cost of doing business and inhibited domestic productivity. It also shows a critical bottleneck to regional integration. Recently, African countries are among the least competitive economies in the world.

Although Africa is striving to be included with the developed continent, its poor transportation links have been hampering such initiatives. Lack of connected roads and rail linkages between neighboring countries has caused the continent to lose on the cross border trade and other economic activities. Improving this difficulty to connect Africa has caught the attention of head of states and the African Union focus to create effective and integrated transport network, to enhance trade among the African countries. Over the coming ten years, investment on road networks is expected to boost; driven by the need to access the continent’s market and resources.  

Transport infrastructure is aspired to create one stop shop for all African countries, closing down the infrastructure deficit. According to the Africa Competitiveness Report, African economies can begin the process of deep integration if their infrastructure networks are designed in such a way as to link production centers and distribution hubs across the continent. Such infrastructure will enable Africa to compete effectively, tap into regional markets and benefit from globalization through investment and trade. The road access rate in Africa is only 34%, compared with 50% in other parts of the developing world. Achieving these demands for an efficient and secure national and cross-border infrastructure as well as a coherent system of regulation for business transactions is vital.   

The maritime transport system is no different. The continent’s 15 landlocked countries including Ethiopia face particular challenges in exporting and importing goods because of the lack of effective and well organized cheaper multimodal infrastructure. Numerous African ports have vast capacity shortcomings due to an ineffective inland transport network. Such disorganizations at African ports result to slow processing times and result in higher fees.

A study carried out by the World Bank discloses that average road density in Africa is 20.4km per 100 square kilometers of land area, out of these only a quarter are paved. Southern Africa is the only region in Africa with a comparatively better road and railway transport system after its massive construction and road renovation initiative due to the 2010 FIFA World Cup. South Africa is the only African country reported to have 62 km of road per 100 km square kilometers, an achievement that is not found in other African countries.

Not having paved roads goes way much more than affecting the better look of a country. Poor road network increases cost of products as it’s expensive to transport them from one place to the other. While to export a container from Hong Kong will only take 5 days and cost about $575, it would take 12 days to export a container from Egypt at a price of $625. The price tag triplicates and the voyage takes over a month to move a container from Angola says the World Bank.  

Although Ethiopia is one of the strong economies in Africa, it is not as networked to the rest of the region as Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and other countries in the Great Lakes areas. The country’s transport infrastructure is focused on sustaining internal economic activity; even this has been limited, as economic development has been concentrated in the center of the country. Nevertheless, efforts have started to better connect Ethiopia to other East African markets and to global export opportunities. The country’s effort to easily connect with seaports to create easy access to its imports and exports still grip the attention of the country. New investments in the mining and manufacturing sector within the country have made the country to prioritize on efficient and cheaper internal transport options than networking with neighboring countries.

Africa’s lengthy low investment in transportation has resulted in dilapidated transport infrastructure. African countries on average invested only 15% to 25% of GDP in transport infrastructure over the period 2005–2012, while India and China invested about 32% and 42% of their GDP in the same period, says PIDA. This low investment has caused Africa’s considerably higher comparative transport fees by as much as 100% than in other developing countries.

Reliable transport methods not only promote access to goods but also encourages foreign direct investment and overall economic development. Economists swear by the concept that infrastructure development leads to economic development. They argue infrastructure development increases growth and per capital income.

Substantial investment in infrastructure using inventive sources of finance is necessary to solve Africa’s stumpy level of competitiveness. The Program for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA) predicts that Africa will need to devote up to $93 billion annually until 2020, for both capital investment and maintenance. Countries should focus on collaborating with the private-sector to bring up well-developed road networks.


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