AfDB at the centre of rural economic transformation, bringing rapid development to rural areas.
Cross River State has an enviable history in Nigeria, yet until 2008, most rural roads were in poor, impassable conditions. They had a negative impact on the local economy, especially agricultural activities, with poor rural roads resulting in exorbitant vehicle operating costs and unquantifiable travel times.
The situation was worse still in far-flung villages where logs of fallen trees often blocked movement, and streams and rivers caused huge hindrances to rural mobility. Due to a lack of accessibility in rural areas, problems of accessing education and health care were accentuated.
Rural productivity and economic opportunities, especially in agriculture, were at near zero levels.
In order to mitigate accessibility, mobility and rural development problems, on December 24, 2007, through the Nigerian Federal Ministry of Finance, the State Government signed the Cross River Rural Access and Mobility project (CR-RAM) loan agreement with the African Development Bank (AfDB).
Consequently, since 2008, the African Development Bank (AfDB) has been involved in Cross River State's aggressive rural road infrastructure development program. The program is anchored on the provision of over 470 kilometres of all-season rural access roads.
The roads being constructed under the Cross River Rural Access Mobility Project (CR-RAMP) are linking villages to urban areas, enhancing the access and mobility of the rural areas to modern facilities such as electricity, potable water and health care delivery, and significantly transforming the people's way of life.
Approved in 2008 under the AfDB's Results-Based Country Strategy Paper (2005-2009) for Nigeria, CR-RAM has offered the AfDB the opportunity to join forces with the Cross River State Government in integrating its rural people into the state's Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (SEEDS).
The AfDB's 2005-2009 strategy aimed at stimulating non-oil growth in Nigeria through enhanced infrastructure and agricultural/rural development and contributing towards economic and social development as well as poverty reduction. It continues to find its resonance in the current 2013-018 Strategy aimed at structural transformation of the communities.
As the two parties pursue a common development purpose through the CR-RAM, what are the key transformation issues beyond the project facts and figures? What are the novelties of the project?
First the Rural Access and Mobility Project (RAMP) is a pro-poor project. It is clearly achieving its objective of improving rural access and mobility for over 1.5 million people, of which the majority are women, in as many as 18 local government areas of Cross River State. The project impact confirms what AfDB President Donald Kaberuka has said that"The satisfaction of beneficiaries of our projects is the true measure of our operational standards."
Direct and indirect employment for the people is increasing household income. Increased accessibility to urban centres and markets in Cross River as well as the neighbouring states is enhancing diversified development opportunities for trade and agriculture, as well as ensuring atremendous reduction in post-harvest losses.
Running through undulating countryside, the project is connecting some national parks, palm tree plantations, and major quarrying sites whose stones are transported by private companies for roads and other construction. The State Government derives substantial revenue from the quarrying companies. Accessibility to health facilities is helping the State to work towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
According to the Cross River State Commissioner for Works, Legor Idagbo, "Through this project, mobility has become easier, shorter and cheaper. Farmers now get value for their produce as they convey it easily to the cities where they sell it at a good price. Generally, economic activities are in a boom era in those communities where accessibility is no more a problem."
The major targets of CR-RAMP are: "to increase all-weather road from 20 per cent to 40 per cent in 2020; to have the average transport cost reduced by 20 per cent on all rehabilitated road network before 2020; provision of access roads to rural markets from zero in 2007 to 28 rural markets by 2013, and access to basic social services in rural areas from 10 per cent in 2007 to 20 per cent in 2013."
Secondly, CR-RAM is one of the more unique projects in the Bank's portfolio in the sense that the State Government is contributing 65.48 per cent and while the AfDB Group is contributing 34.52 per cent of the total cost of civil works. The revision of the earlier arrangement, under which the Bank was to pay a higher percentage of the project cost, means that the State Government believes in the project and has rural infrastructure and reduction of poverty in its rural areas as the cardinal points of its development program.
The original ADF loan of US $57.3 million was to finance the entire foreign exchange cost of the project amounting to US $35.5 million and 75 per cent of the local cost of the project amounting to US $18.7 million. The revision arose from a re-examination of the initial appraisal under which the AfDB proposed the construction and rehabilitation of 474 km of simple gravel rather than tarred feeder roads.
However, considering the project zone is prone to rain, the State Government insisted on all-weather tarred access roads with two-lanes with 6.0 metre-wide carriageways and 1.0 metre-wide shoulders in selected areas of Cross River State.
"The network of roads either completed or under construction is a marvel as its inter-village linkages seem endless. The project is scheduled to be implemented within 43 months," said the Project Coordinator and Engineer, Charles Okongoh.
According to Okongoh, the project contracts are divided into eight lots for eight different contractors. Although only some 45 per cent of the project had been completed by April 2013, he was optimistic the project would be completed on schedule.
However Okongoh pointed out a number of challenges, including the short duration of the dry season in Cross River, which is the best period for construction; as well as the increase in the prices of construction materials in 2013, considering that the tendering was completed as far back as 2011.
Meanwhile, the AfDB Task Manager of the project, Remi-Callie Okoro, said CR-RAM is the AfDB's best ongoing infrastructure project in Nigeria. According to him, onAugust 20, 2012, a joint AfDB, Federal and Cross River Governments supervision mission showcased it as a flagship project that has set the standard for other rural road projects in Nigeria.
On sustainability, Okongoh revealed that the project has sensitized the affected communities and nowthey take ownership. The communities themselves are expected undertake routine maintenance of the roads, clear the shoulders, remove fallen tree branches, and watch for heavy trucks using the rural roads designed for certain maximum loads.
On monitoring and evaluation, Okongoh noted that appropriate indicators are being perfected so the project's impact can be clearly assessed. Currently, the Project Implementation Unit in collaboration with the State Government, is establishing maintenance communities, prior to handing over the project to the communities themselves. Funds for maintenance will come from the State and the different local governments.
In conclusion, Okongoh said the project's impact is already being felt. "People without roads before now have roads and the credit is shared by AfDB, the Federal Government of Nigeria and the Cross River State Government," he emphasized.
Impressed by the success recorded in the implementation of CR-RAMP, the AfDB is on the verge of commencing the second phase of the project ...