African leaders responsible for road maintenance last week met in Yaoundé, Cameroon warning that only a small portion of roads are in good condition in sub-Saharan Africa and that the fact is hampering the integration process prodded by the African Union (AU).
“Today’s African road networks are in most cases in a relatively advanced degradation state.
In each member country of AGEPAR, only 30 to 35 percent of the roads are in good condition and the rest are in a mediocre state,” said Tchona Idossou, coordinator of the Association for African Road Managers and Partners (AGEPAR).
The association works to improve road infrastructure as a partner to the Association of African Road Maintenance Fund (AFERA).
Created in 2003 in Cameroon’s capital, AFERA is a 29-member grouping in the sub-Saharan Africa, more than half of the 53 states on the continent.
“In Madagascar, we have just about 24 percent of the road network in good condition and 70 percent of the rest is in very bad state,” Loly Robinson, the outgoing AFERA president, disclosed in Yaoundé on Monday.
A study conducted by AGEPAR indicated that potholes on the road have caused a vehicle an additional cost of 30 percent in its maintenance work.
The poor state of roads is limiting the free movement of goods and people in Africa, especially the commercial exchanges between the countries of the Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa (CEMAC), including Cameroon, the Republic of Congo, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Central African Republic and Chad.
Bernard Guimdo Dingmo, a political science professor at the University of Yaoundé II, said poor roads have become a bottleneck for the process of regional integration in Africa, which is largely dependent on the development of transport system.
A World Bank expert, Stephen Vincent, indicated that “sub-Saharan Africa is in need of 90 billion (U. S.) dollars to be invested in the development of infrastructure.”
The needs are colossal. And there exists another problem. According to another analyst from the same university, Roger Tsafack Nanfosso, an economics professor, the integration process shines with scattered and juxtaposed characteristics.
The stakes involved in the process reveal a lukewarm African conscience.
“The Abuja Treaty (1991) divides Africa in five regions which must lead to an African Economic Community: North Africa, West Africa, Central Africa, East Africa and Southern Africa,” he said, noting that “instead of five regional economic communities (CER), today there are 14.”
Precisely,” each region, the economist exclaimed, has about three to four CER in average!” Result: “information asymmetry, multiplicity of treaties and protocols and parallel functioning of the different CERs which leads to multiplicity of programs.”
“This scattering of functions makes integration very expensive and it’s definitely harmful to the process,” Nanfosso said.