Africa’s future depends on its roads
- An adequate and reliable road network will be key to Africa’s economic and social development. Good-quality road connections can greatly expand access to jobs, markets, schools, and hospitals. For rural communities, in particular, a road is often an essential lifeline that links isolated villages to economic opportunities and services.
- The low density and poor condition of the existing road infrastructure are a serious impediment to the region’s growth. Currently, only 1/3 of rural inhabitants live within two kilometers of an all-season road–the lowest accessibility in the developing world. Moreover, insufficient funding of routine maintenance accelerates the deterioration of the network, leaving many roads in poor condition.
- As part of a broader effort to expand and upgrade its transport network, Africa will see substantial investment in road infrastructure over the next decades. When combining both regional initiatives and country-level masterplans, capital investment in the road sector will average about $4.6 billion a year, for a total of $78 billion through 2030.
Climate change will take a heavy toll on the African road system
- To ensure road spending delivers the best possible return and brings lasting development benefits, it is critical that investment plans take into account the consequences of a changing climate, as road assets are particularly vulnerable to climate stressors such as higher temperatures, increased precipitation, or flooding.
- Virtually all models show that weather extremes will indeed put considerable pressure on Africa’s road system. The damage and accelerated aging of roads caused by climate change will require increased maintenance and more frequent rehabilitation.
- Aside from higher maintenance and rehabilitation costs, climate-related damage to the road infrastructure will also cause more frequent disruptions to the movement of people and goods, with direct consequences on economic productivity.
Fortunately, there are effective ways of adapting new roads and modifying existing ones to enhance climate resilience.