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Roads: Getting Them Done


I had an interesting debate with one fella recently at a party: whether, if you have minimal resources and really have to prioritize, you would go for education or for roads. I wouldn't want to say here where I stood.

Anyway, education and roads are all important. We talked about education here earlier in the month. Let us now talks roads. The image you see is a little outdated ( but give a near accurate picture of the state of our roads.

If you take a look at the 2007/2008 Global Competitiveness Report published by the World Economic Forum, Tanzania ranks 94th out of 131 countries in overall quality of infrastructure. Specifically, in the quality of road infrastructure, we ranked 87th out of 131 countries.

Consider these other facts:

  • With an area of 364,900 sq m (945,000 sq km), we have a total road network of 53,655.7 miles (85,849 km), of which only 7.4 per cent (3960 miles) is paved. And only 70 per cent of the paved roads are in good condition.
  • 11.7 per cent of our road network consists of trunk roads (6299 miles) that are also used by six landlocked countries for their international trade. Only 49 per cent of these trunk roads are paved. How can we be competitive in international trade with such roads? The cost of transporting a container from Kigali in Rwanda to the port in Dar es Salaam is almost $1.9 per mile compared to $0.03 per mile in the more efficient railway line between Durban in South Africa and Maseru in Lesotho.
  • 22.3 per cent of our road network (11,966 miles) consists of regional roads that would normally link and interconnect the country into a functioning national market. Only 3.26 per cent of such roads (391 miles) are paved. And of those that are paved only 85 per cent are in good condition. How can we create a functioning and efficient national market with such roads?
  • 66 per cent of our road network (35,391 miles) consists of district, urban and rural roads. These are the ones linking the productive areas of a predominantly agricultural economy to the national, regional and international market. Besides market access, such roads are necessary if farmers are to diversify into higher-value economic activities to augment incomes. But only 1.4 per cent of these roads (494 miles) are paved. Overall, only 14 per cent of this category of roads is considered in good condition and only 41 per cent in fair condition. Only 38 per cent of the rural population lives within 1.25 miles (2km) of an all-season road. How are we going to efficiently and cost-effectively link the producers with the market with these kinds of roads?

Now, like with all major public investments, the question eventually comes to funding. I am told that for US $1 billion, you can build up to 700 kilometers. We probably need $3-4 billion to sort out all of our major roads. There was a point where we wanted to go to the markets, just like Ghana and Gabon did, and do a sovereign bond and rake at least $2bn. But the market, as you all know, went bust. You can't get that kind of money at 6, or 7, or 8 percent. In fact, Ghana got I think a billion for 7 percent, but now they have to pay 13 percent. And Gabon's rate has gone up too. Now, how do you raise $3 billion at the current environment?

January Makamba.

December, 2008.


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