SSATP Working Paper No.10

There are over one and a half million km of roads in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), including 554,000 km of main roads. Almost without exception, these roads are managed by bureaucratic government roads departments. The roads carry 80 to 90 percent of the region's passenger and freight traffic, absorb 5 to 10 percent of central government recurrent budgets and 10 to 20 percent of their development budgets. Furthermore, a significant proportion of the central government's disbursed and outstanding debt is attributable to road loans and the sector also absorbs a great deal of grant finance, mainly for procurement of construction and maintenance equipment. In terms of assets, employment and turnover (particularly with maintenance fully funded) roads are truly big business. They are generally far larger than railways, or national airlines. In spite of their importance, roads in SSA are poorly managed and badly maintained. The replacement cost of main roads in SSA is nearly $80 billion and it requires annual expenditures on routine and periodic maintenance of over $800 million to keep these roads in a stable long-term condition. African countries have spent nothing like this amount during the past 20 years and, as a result, about $14 billion of the capital invested in roads has been eroded through lack of maintenance. SSA has been living off its assets.

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Date of Publication (Year): 
Dec 1993
Ian Heggie