Infrastructure has long been a challenge and limitation in Africa, and the Trans-African Highway project strives to bridge this gap to rapid development and greater opportunity. UNECA, UNITED NATIONS Economic Commission for Africa launched the project in 1971 at the conclusion of the African independence era.
The Trans-African Highway project is Africa’s road network that will prove to be a critical addition to the continent’s growth. It will be made up of nine highways, connecting about 500-million people as it passes through 41 cities in sub-Saharan African cities totaling 56,683 km. It will directly impact the continent’s growth, as it will improve transport and boost cross-border trades.
The routes include:
- Tripoli to Cape Town – 9,610 km
- Cairo to Cape Town – 8,860 km
- Cairo to Dakar – 8,636 km
- Lagos to Mombasa – 6,260 km
- Dakar to Lagos – 4,760 km
- Algiers to Lagos – 4,504 km
- Dakar to N’Djamena – 4,500 km
- N’Djamena to Djibouti – 4,220 km
- Beira to Lobito – 3,520 km
The project will come in at a total cost of $47-billion over 15 years, including maintenance and overheads. Initial costs have been listed at $20 billion, $1 billion yearly for maintenance, and $12 billion for administration, condition monitoring, and other. The projected outcome is $250-billion in economic benefits and will offer great opportunities for people across the continent.
Snowden M’madi, programmes officer of the Association of Southern African National Roads Agencies, explains, “Road transport is an important ingredient for economic growth, and this will be achieved in Africa through the Trans-African Highway.”
The current status of the project is ‘in progress’. Among the complete sections so far is the Trans-Sahelian Highway, a 4,500 km, which runs between Dakar, Senegal and N’Djamena, Chad.
One of the project’s major financial backers is the Africa Development Bank. The Bank has cited that conflict and climatic conditions have contributed to the slow progress of the network of highways.
Progress however, has been made, and is constantly being worked towards.
President of the African Development Bank, Akinwumi Adesina, explains that, “Roads change everything. They bring hope alive. Such is the case of this road. While economic activity expands, so will family connections. It has brought much joy to families.”
Consulting firm KPMG has found that the cost of transportation in Africa is around 50-175% higher than it is in other locations. Due to poor roads and infrastructure, transport companies for example are constantly challenged by trucked arriving late due to road conditions, costing even $500 a trip.
With improved infrastructure in Africa, the cost of transportation will be greatly reduced and people, businesses and the economy will see and feel the benefits. As there will be greater connection between cities and countries, trade and opportunity will naturally improve as access is granted to more parts of the continent.
Another great project related to this one which is leading to significant improvements, is the East African Rail Master Plan. The East African Rail Master Plan is a $13.8 billion project that will rejuvenate lines among countries, including Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, South Sudan and Ethiopia.