Partnerships needed to upgrade Africa's roads

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Johannesburg - Public-private partnerships are key to addressing some of the challenges facing Africa's transport network.

Development Bank of Southern Africa transport advisory unit representative, Peter Copley, highlighted the importance of partnerships to upgrade the continent's roads at the Africa Roads Conference on Wednesday.

"The reality is that the governments of the world no longer have enough resources necessary to meet the infrastructure needs of the world. I expect that we are going to have to move to the private sector for funding," Mr Copley said.

He said a vibrant transport network running through African countries was crucial to boost trade on the continent.

"Some of our network has been there for more than 60 years without being upgraded. That is why government, through AsgiSA (Accelerated and Shared Growth Initiative) aims to tackle the problem," Mr Copley said.

Launched in 2006, AsgiSA was born out of the need for government to direct more resources and investment toward infrastructure in order to help support South Africa's rapidly expanding economy.

He further said if Sub-Saharan Africa wanted to compete with the best in the world, challenges of infrastructure needed to be attended to as a matter of urgency, adding that governments needed to look into issues of free trade to ensure countries could access each other more easily.

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

Sharing the same sentiment, Executive Director of Kenya Roads Board Francis Nyangaga emphasised the need for African countries to see road network as key to economic development.

"If I know the road from Nairobi to South Africa is good, what will stop me from driving to South Africa to trade?

"I feel that we should work together on this one; otherwise trade between African countries, especially the south, will be affected," Dr Nyangaga said.

Johannesburg Roads Agency chief executive Dudu Maseko was expected to address the conference later today.

About 50 representatives from 10 countries have gathered for the four-day conference to discuss the state of roads and transport in Africa.

South Africa is hosting the conference for the third consecutive year since its launch in 2007 when industry experts from across Africa met in Sandton to share experiences on how to improve the continent's road network.