Excellences, Business Leaders, Participants, Media Practitioners, Invited Guest Ladies and Gentlemen”
It is a privilege to be afforded the opportunity to speak on the subject of “the role of the road sector in fostering development in Africa” and reflecting on the theme: “Promoting African Intra-Regional Trade for the Development of Africa”.
Infrastructure development is the cornerstone to gearing up the African Economy and accelerating growth in all sectors. Rapid Development in Transport Sector along with strategic integration of the different Transport modes can contribute to significant growth and improve productivity. It is therefore crucial for African Governments to step up their investment in this sector.
In most African countries, air, sea and rail transport modes do not provide the expected complimentary linkages to the road network in terms of the movement of people and goods.
The Road network plays a major role in the socio-economic development of all nations. It is all encompassing and pervasive and therefore affects the social, economic and political life of every citizen. In most developed economies such as in most African countries, it is the fulcrum around which other sectors revolve. The road sector network has proven over time to be catalyst for the Socio-Economic Development of many a country. In Ghana, the road sector network actually carries about 95% of goods and people.
Studies undertaken in India, China, Vietnam and Ethiopia show a positive correlation between investment in Road Transportation, Economic Growth and Poverty Reduction. Similar studies conducted in Ghana also confirmed that completed and maintained roads lead to 20% increase in trips to hospitals, 65% lowering traveling cost to market centers, 41% reduction in costs of traveling to welfare facilities and 23% increase in the price of maize received by farmers and thereby empowering them financially.
Various development communities across Africa such as the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), recognize the development of major road transit Corridors as a key facilitator to trade and economic development. Typical examples are the Kalahari road corridor and the Abidjan-Lagos transit corridor in Southern and West Africa respectively.
About 56% of the entire 1083km Abidjan-Lagos corridor spanning from its eastern border with Togo to the western Border with La Cote d’Ivoire is in Ghana. This corridor is said to contribute about 65% of economic activities within the ECOWAS sub-region. The corridor has attracted funding of about US$120 million from the World Bank’s International Development Agency (IDA) for a project to reduce trade and transport barriers in the ports and on the roads along the Abidjan-Lagos coastal corridor in Ghana, Togo and Benin. This project is known as the Abidjan-Lagos Trade and Transport Facilitation Project (ALTTFP).
Another corridor development programme in the sub-region being funded by the IDA and the African Development Bank (AfDB) is the Road Program 1 (RP-1). The RP-1 is part of the Phase 1 of the Community Action Programme of Road Infrastructure and Transport (CAPRIT) which focuses on improving access for Burkina Faso and Mali to the Ghanaian ports to facilitate the efficient movement of traffic along the Tema-Ouagadougou-Bamako Corridor. The IDA funded portion is known as the West African Transport and Transit Facilitation Project (WATTFP).-
It is important to note that the development of these road infrastructure corridors does not just involve only the construction of a road from an origin to destination but rather the integration of the economies of communities and villages within the catchment area as well.
In order to provide a good harmony between the road system and the corridor towns to maximize economic benefits and development; community development activities such as construction of schools, health centers, markets, water provision and protection of cultural heritage sites have also been included in recent projects. The developments of rest stops & custom intervening areas, HIV/AIDS education/sensitization and road safety education are also undertaken as part of the road construction works.
These transit corridors, however, suffer from heavy vehicular congestion in major urban centers and also frequent barriers or check points that hinder efficient cross border movement.
Over the years, the Government of Ghana has invested heavily on reconstructing major road corridors within the country with the aim of becoming a Transportation Hub of West Africa. However, investments in only road infrastructure which provides the interconnection to Member States will not bring the expected trade challenge. We are all aware of the fact that once you build a good road it reduces travel time and increases economic benefits.
With the stable economic environment in Ghana and the use of our Port by other landlocked countries within West Africa, such as Burkina Faso and Mali, more heavy vehicles are continuously patronizing our roads though the length and breadth of the country. This has therefore called for strict enforcement of Axle Load Control Regulations and new innovations in pavement designs for a robust road network. This will go a long way to reduce Government’s annual road development and maintenance budget requirement and thus make available surplus funds for other projects.
The cost of road construction and its subsequent regular maintenance requires a huge financial outlay in many African countries. The Road Ministry of Ghana has maintained its focus on its core function to protect the huge investment made by Government in the provision of the road infrastructure during the past years. However, the level of investment required cannot be met entirely from the country’s annual budgetary provision and the support received from our Development partners.
It is therefore increasingly recognized that road users must directly or indirectly contribute to the cost of road maintenance. This is based on the argument that the user should pay for the service rendered. The burden of road maintenance must therefore become a shared responsibility between the Government who builds and the road user who benefits from the access thus created.
It was against this imperative need to address the shortfall in the financing gap in our road maintenance programme that the Road Fund Act 1997, Act 536 was passed by the Parliament of Ghana to establish the Road Fund Management Board. Revenue accruals into the Fund are to be exclusively dedicated to routine and periodic maintenance of the road network. Indeed, the current capacity of the Road Fund can sustain only about 60% of the road maintenance needs.
Many other African Countries share similar deficiencies. The Government of Ghana is therefore exploring other financing methods such as the long term pre-financing of road maintenance works in the form of Performance Based Contracts and Public Private Partnerships to bridge the funding gap in the provision of the much needed transport infrastructure.
The time has therefore come for us as a continent to take the difficult but inevitable decision of raising sufficient funds to meet our road maintenance bill for a continuous direct impact of road provision to economic development and poverty reduction.
Removal of trade bottlenecks and harmonization of standards across the continent will be a key facilitator to our development.
It is therefore my expectation that business leaders gathered here will consider good business proposals with corresponding Government Institutions to ascertain the full benefits for a good road transport system in Africa’s Development.
Thank you and May God bless us all.