Bilateral donors have lost interest in investing in road infrastructure in Africa, as they are not seeing the benefits of such investments, World Bank senior transport specialist Tesfamichael Nahusenay asserted during the Africa Roads 2009 conference on Wednesday.

He noted that this was owing to the fact that not enough employment was being created and that such investments were not helping to improve rural access and alleviating poverty.

Nahusenay emphasised the importance of keeping finance for roads flowing in Africa, especially in light of the global economic crisis, during which not only trade flows have declined, but unemployment has also increased.

He added that improving roads could benefit African economies, as it, among other benefits, increased trade flows. But he pointed out that this was not happening, as the road systems were not being efficiently operated in all countries.

Meanwhile, Development Bank of Southern Africa transport specialist advisory unit representative Peter Copley said that there was a shortage of capital markets in Africa to fund large road infrastructure projects.

There was a real need on the continent for the creation of such markets to provide large sums of money for the redevelopment of the continent’s roads sector, without putting a huge debt burden on these projects.

Further, he highlighted the importance of public–private partnerships (PPPs) in upgrading the continent’s roads. The private sector was far more consistent in investing in such projects than the governments were, he said.

Copley added that while the use of PPPs was a well-accepted concept, governments were often reluctant to accept that such partnerships were necessary.

Countries also had to develop their road systems on a regional basis to increase the economic benefits, said Copley, noting that it was important for countries to start thinking in a regional context to address their transport needs.

For this to be successful, trade policy regulations between countries in regions had to be harmonised, commented Regional Trade Facilitation Programme project manager John Donovan.

PUBLICATION: Engineering News
AUTHOR: Chanel Pringle
DATED: 20th May 2009