Building a new road to development in Ethiopia…

Roads are the backbone of a country’s infrastructure and the frame of economic development. They serve as key infrastructural units which provide linkages to other modes of transportation like railways, shipping, and airways. Roads also support the growth of agriculture and other industries, and furnish easy access to social infrastructure such as schools and health centres.

Hence, a well-established road network is very essential to promote trade and commerce as well as furnishing easy access to social infrastructure such as schools and health centers.
In the 1990s, the Government of Ethiopia knew that a major expansion of the road network was necessary to meet its development goals such as advancement in the private sector; expansion of essential infrastructure; and conservation of the environment. Keeping all these factors in mind, leaders of Ethiopia formulated the 10-year Road Sector Development programme (RSDP 1997–2007), a two-phased integrated package of investments, reforms, and institutional reorganisation. The programme was later extended to include a third phase up to the end of June 2010.

Project objectives
Project planners first looked at the country’s overall road sector issues. They defined policy and institutional reforms as well as the levels of intervention that would help achieve their objectives. The programme was then designed to achieve the following:

  • Improve trunk and regional/rural road access to meet the agricultural and other economic development needs.
  • Build institutional capacity in both the public and private sectors for sustainable road development and maintenance.
  • Provide economic opportunity for the rural poor both through increased employment in rural road works and affordable transport and services.

Eleven years after phase I of the roads project, and now through the implementation of phase II and III, there have been remarkable changes in both Ethiopia’s road conditions and the road sector.
“Rural people have now doubled their access to all-weather roads, which has led to a reduced transport burden, women’s empowerment and improved agricultural incomes,” said Yoshimichi Kawasumi, the World Bank’s project leader. “These outcomes are the result of combined contributions by Government, investing in regional rural roads, and development partners in restoring the main road network. The classified main roads have nearly doubled to about 45,000 kilometers with the increase in roads in good condition.”
During the phase I, 8,709km of roads were constructed or rehabilitated. The first two components of the project alone upgraded the country’s major connectors, including the Modjo-Awash-Gewane-Mille (442km) on the import-export corridor, and the Awash-Hirna-Kulubi-Dire Dawa-Harar (311km), a gateway to the eastern part of Ethiopia and Somalia. Phase II included the rehabilitation of 988km of roads, upgrades to 1,758km, and the construction of 628km of new gravel roads. And, as of September 2008, heavy or emergency maintenance was completed on 4,199km of asphalt and gravel roads, and some 70,000km of community roads were constructed.
As a result, today, the proportion of federal and regional roads in good condition outweighs the proportion of roads in fair and poor state. For the road user this means an extended, better built and maintained road network.
“I travel from Addis Ababa to Harar at least twice a year for both business purpose and visiting relatives, over the past 15 years,” says Abdella Derese, a motorist who lives in Addis. “Prior to the road being built, it used to take me up to 16 hours to get to Harar because of the bad conditions. Now it takes less than eight hours.”
For the rural population it means secured access to greater resources and opportunities in the way of better markets, faster access to health services, lighter transport burdens, and more employment.

Institutional and structural changes
In addition to infrastructure changes, the Road Sector Development programme’s institutional development impact has been substantial. It supports the re-establishment of the Ethiopian Road Authority (ERA), now the project’s implementing agency, as an autonomous institution with its management accountable to a board. Because of this, major reforms have been introduced, particularly those aimed at commercialising the ERA’s operations. This ensures reliable road infrastructure and efficient road agencies.
Other highlights of the project include:

  • Six-fold rise in annual road fund revenues.
  • An increase to 58 per cent in the share of the annual contract price awarded to local contractors, in 2008.
  • Smaller transport tariffs and less travel time reported by rural populations.
  • An increase in income opportunities for women from labour-based works, and a lesser domestic transport burden.
  • A wider range of alternative income and diversification of agriculture, translating to higher prices for commercial sales of agricultural produce and decreased agricultural inputs.

The Ethiopian government and its partners point to policy and institutional reforms, as well as procedural changes, as the reason for the project’s success. The government has also expressed a commitment to further improve and extend the main road network under the Road Sector programme.

World Bank aid
The World Bank’s first contribution to the government’s Ethiopia Road Sector Development programme was in the form of an International Development Association credit of US$309.2mn (1998-2005), which was followed by an Adoptable Programme Lending of US$845mn in four stages (2004-1016). The Bank, with other donors, has provided grants and credits to the programme since 1998. The total aid granted by the Bank is over $1.1bn.
Partners in the project include the European Union, African Development Fund, Department of International Development, UK (DFID), Norwegian Development Fund, Deutsche Gesellshaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ), Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau (German Bilateral Aid) Japan, Italy, and the Netherlands.

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