14 August 2017

Ethiopia: Changing Gear for Viable Road Network

Photo: Ethiopia Govt
Ethiopia's first expressway, the 84.7Km long road from Addis Abeba to Adama.

Adding luster to Ethiopia's prosperity,the revitalization of its century-old road network and the modernization of road transport system are promising a rapid and new national growth. The stride Ethiopia made in cognizance of the fact public spending in rural and urban infrastructures is one of the most powerful instruments and the crucial one that governments must pursue to promote economic growth and reduce poverty is bearing fruit. The Ethiopian Roads Authority(ERA) Communication Department Team Leader Dereje Hailu so disclosed.

He told the Ethiopian Herald that in the last 2016/17 fiscal year the authority had invested much on construction and maintenance of roads to climb ladders of achievement in the sector and to meet set targets in the Second Growth and Transformation Plan two (GTPII). With three years yet to go, the authority has registered 97 per cent performance in constructing and maintaining over 20,633 KM roads outlaying 32.3 Billion Birr same period, he added.

World Bank Fiscal Year 2016 report highlighted: with 78 percent of the world's poor people living in rural areas and most depending on agriculture for their livelihoods, increasing farm productivity and resilience, strengthening farmers' links to markets, and providing affordable food are proven ways to end poverty and boost shared prosperity.

The Bank also highlighted that transportation and communication technologies connect people to jobs, markets, and social services, and are at the core of global discussions on the SDGs, climate change, and road safety. Yet accessibility, efficiency, and safety remain critical challenges to realizing the full potential of sustainable mobility.

Today, according to the Bank, one billion people still lack access to an all-weather road, and three billion to the Internet. Efforts to build safer, cleaner, and more-efficient transportation systems are also helping to better map travel patterns and improve the quality of mass transit systems.

According to the Ethiopian Development Research Institute 2011 working paper, in 1951 the total stock of road network was only 6,400 km of which 3400 km was asphalt and the remaining 3000 km was gravel road. This entire network was found only in urban areas.

By the end of the Imperial regime, the network had been growing at a rate of 2.05 percent per annum over the period 1951-1973, and the network had reached to 9,160 km in 1973. During the Derg regime, 1974 - 1991, the stock road increased to 19,017 km with a growth rate of 6.2 percent per annum.

With the incumbent regime, the road network has reached 46,812 km in 2009 with an average annual growth rate of 9.35 percent. Over the period 1991 to 2009, 28,731 km of new road network was actualized.

In this regard, Dereje said that the total stock of road network in 2011, 2015 and 2016 had reached 53,997, 110,414, and 113,066 respectively. In these particular years, the network had been steadily growing at a rate of 1.7 per cent in 2011, 10.9 per cent in 2015, and 8.2 per cent in 2016.

The number of local road construction contractors was finger counted in 1989. The number had climbed to 15 in 2011 and shot up to105 in 2016.It still has kept the tempo. This shows that the country has been making efforts to upgrade the competence of local contractors and to breathe life into road networks by own capacity.

According to the study conducted by the authority, the country is required to construct 200,000 km of optimum national road network, which is considered as a target road network to have good accessibility. Whereas, for the country to be competitive enough and enter into middle income category, the road transport network has to reach 330,000 km, the average road density of the lower middle countries, the study highlighted.

Apart from planning sound transport policies and strategies, the government has to change the gear to address urban and rural transport issues in a way it can downsize poverty and improve the livelihood of the people. Thus, improving the current access rate should be a major concern of the country's road sector expansion program.

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