A robust road transport is essential to development in Southern Africa where access to good and well-serviced roads may be the difference between prosperity and poverty or even between life and death.
Lack of a good road transport network is one of the main impediments to intra-regional trade, with members of the same economic bloc often appearing detached from each other due to poor road connectivity.
Road transport is the most dominant mode of moving goods in SADC and the demand for good service is increasing constantly.
Efforts to improve the road infrastructure in line with rising demand have been hampered by inadequate financing in most member states.
Funds for road maintenance activities generally come from the treasuries of member states, allocated under normal budgetary systems, and often compete with other priority social sectors such as education and health.
Faced with this scenario, most roads in the regions have deteriorated over the past decade as budgetary allocations for road maintenance declined in real terms. Taking cognisance of these factors, SADC members have been implementing some institutional reforms in the road sub-sector.
Financing of the roads is one of the most critical issues to be addressed with the reforms.
With the assistance of the African Development Bank (AfDB), several SADC members are undertaking major rehabilitation works of their road networks.
Among these are Malawi and Tanzania, which are concluding agreements with the AfDB to improve road infrastructure in the two countries.
Under the Road Sector Support Project Phase II programme, Tanzania plans to upgrade 387km of trunk roads, consisting mainly of resurfacing part of the road from the capital Dodoma in the centre of the country, to Babati, and the Tunduru-Mangaka-Mtambaswala road in the south.
The project aims to improve road transport infrastructure to reduce road maintenance and travel time between those centres, and provide access to bigger markets and social services for local communities.
The 225km road between Dodoma and Babati is part of the Cape-to-Cairo Trans-African Highway and the North-South Corridor, adopted through a tripartite agreement by the East African Community, SADC and COMESA.
Dodoma is the political capital of Tanzania and the seat of the country’s Parliament, the Bunge.
The 139km Tunduru-Mangaka Road is a section of the Mtwara Corridor running from the Mtwara Port to Mbaba Bay on Lake Malawi, while the 800km Mtwara-Mbamba Bay Road provides the backbone transport infrastructure with cross-border linkages to northern Mozambique, Malawi and Zambia.
The opening up of the road between Mtwara Port and Mbamba Bay has great potential to promote the development of natural resources in the Mtwara Corridor, as well as connecting northern Mozambique and Malawi to the nearest port, Mtwara.
The AfDB is also funding the rehabilitation of the 152km Nsipe-Liwonde-Magochi Road under the Nacala Road Corridor Project Phase III being negotiated with Malawi.
The project will be implemented in two phases, each consisting of rehabilitation works on 76km length.
The project aims to provide Malawi, Zambia and the interior of Mozambique with an improved road transport linkage to the port of Nacala.
The same project will see the construction of two border posts between Malawi and Zambia and between Malawi and Mozambique beginning in the second half of 2012.
The Japan International Co-operation Agency has agreed in principle to finance the one-stop border posts while the Malawian government will meet 10 percent of project costs. - sardc.net