In recent years, the RMF component has focused on strengthening the capacity of regional road associations as key partners to SSATP, to play an increased leadership role in the advocacy of reforms to foster efficiency and effectiveness in road network management in SSA. The African Road Maintenance Fund Association (ARMFA), the Association of African Road Managers and Partners (AGEPAR), and the Association of Southern Africa National Road Agencies (ASANRA) are these key partners.
The RMF focuses on improving efficiency and execution capacity in the roads sector by promoting the creation of road agencies as autonomous entities in line with the RMI principles in the four building blocks underpinning sustainable management of road networks. Road agencies and/or authorities are needed to complement financing innovations undertaken through the Road Funds if there is to be a lasting improvement in the road sector. Experience has shown that restructuring road departments under the parent ministries does not create the expected impact because of too many constraints remaining thus preventing the full use of existing technical capacity. Consequently, about 20 road agencies have been established since 2000, broadly in line with the principles of RMI. Although these agencies ultimately remain within the oversight of government, they however operate at arm’s length as autonomous or semi-autonomous entities in order to gain the potential efficiency, accountability and transparency normally attributable to private sector management. The agencies are established with the main objective of being more consumer-oriented and market responsive than the largely politically driven traditional government road agencies. Key features include a sound, enabling legal framework, a strong focus on commercialized management practice, reliable information management systems, and effective interaction with road users. Characteristics of stages in road agency reforms are summarized in the attached table.
In order to assess progress in the road sector reforms, SSATP conducted a systematic review of the performance of road agencies in 2010 and published ‘Progress on Commercialized Road Management in Sub-Saharan Africa’ in 2012. The analytical work covers road agencies in seven countries focusing on three ) out of the four building blocks of the RMI blueprint, responsibility, ownership and management. In this initiative an attempt was made to define criteria which allow for quantitative measurement and comparison of road sector performance across countries. It also provides the basis for SSA countries to further improve road management and financing practices. The countries surveyed are all at different stages of commercialized road management practices ranging from little if any progress in agencies that still operate within a bureaucratic government environment, to excellent progress in countries that operate largely in line with the commercialized management practices. The survey indicates that progress in road management reforms in SSA could best be described as “a road partially traveled”, due to many instances of deviation from recommended RMI good practice. However, despite the challenges faced, in general the institutional reforms in SSA countries have had a discernible impact on improving road management practices and that pursuit of the reforms is justified and beneficial.