Maputo — The Mozambican government is investing in improving unclassified roads in rural areas in order to link productive areas to markets, according to the Deputy Minister of Public Works, Francisco Pereira.
Mozambique has over 60,000 kilometres of roads. Of these, 30,000 kilometres are classified roads, and the rest are unclassified. The unclassified roads have rarely been subject to any form of repair or rehabilitation. The poor state of these roads makes it very difficult to transport surplus crops out of remote areas.
Speaking to reporters after the opening session of the second International Conference of the African Community Access Programme (AFCAP), Pereira said the idea is to find lasting solutions using low cost local materials to rehabilitate the unclassified roads.
"Since these roads carry a low volume of traffic", he explained, "they are low cost, and it is possible to build them with a mixture of soils and other local materials. But they have to be passable if local development is to occur".
Pereira said the government has a programme to deal with this question, and there have been some positive pilot experiences. One of these reduced the standard cost of building a kilometre of road from the usual 600-700,000 US dollars to about 60,000 dollars.
The challenge facing the government is to expand these experiences to other parts of the country, and to guarantee the maintenance of all roads, classified and unclassified.
According to the General Director of the National Roads Administration (ANE), Cecilio Grachane, Mozambique is spending slightly more than 100 million dollars a year on road maintenance.
"Each province needs four to five million dollars (Mozambique has 11 provinces), and on top of that there is the national roadwork managed centrally. But we need more than 100 million dollars", said Grachane.
Organised by the ANE, the conference brings together about 150 delegates from across the globe, but particularly from African countries. Most of them are experts linked to transport engineering.
AFCAP is designed to address the challenges of providing reliable access for poor communities. It is funded by the British Department for International Development (DFID) and managed by the British company, the Crown Agents. AFCAP says that it provides advice and undertakes research to deliver safe and sustainable access to rural communities.
A study distributed at the conference notes that in rural Africa millions of people lack access to vital health services because of the long distances to the nearest health unit, compounded by the precarious state of the roads.
The document added that, despite recent improvements in many African countries, only 18.8 per cent of roads on the continent are paved.
In Mozambique, of the 30,000 kilometres of classified roads, just 7,000 kilometres are paved - this is 23 per cent, but if the unclassified roads are included, the figure drops to about 11 per cent.