Ethiopia Road Sector Development Project Drives Economic Growth and Opportunity

August 06 2009

  • With support from the World Bank and other partners, Ethiopia launched a program in 1997 to improve development
  • The Road Sector Development Program has shown many successes including infrastructure and policy reform
  • More than 75,000 kilometers of road, including rural access roads, have been constructed or rehabilitated

ADDIS ABABA, August 3, 2009 -- Roads are the backbone of a country's infrastructure and the frame of a country's economic development. They support growth in agriculture and industry, open corridors, port links and tourism areas, and connect each region to the rest of the country. Roads also furnish access to internal markets and social infrastructure such as schools and health centers. In the 1990s, the Government of Ethiopia knew that a major expansion of the road network was necessary to meet its development goals namely, (a) advance the private sector; (b) upgrade and expand essential infrastructure; and (c) conserve the environment. With this is mind, Ethiopia's leaders formulated the 10-year Road Sector Development Program (RSDP 1997ĘC2007), a two-phased integrated package of investments, reforms, and institutional reorganization. The program was later extended to include a third phase up to the end of June 2010.

A Project Paved with Good Intentions and Better Results

Project planners first looked at the country's overall road sector issues. They defined policy and institutional reforms, as well as the levels of interventions that would help achieve their objectives. The program was then designed to achieve the following:

  • Improve trunk and regional/rural road access to meet the agricultural and other economic development needs
  • Build institutional capacity in both the public and private sectors for sustainable road development and maintenance
  • Provide economic opportunity for the rural poor both through increased employment in rural road works and affordable transport and services.

Eleven years after phase I of the roads project, and now through the implementation of phase II and III, there have been remarkable changes in both Ethiopia's road conditions and the road sector.

Rural people have now doubled their access to all-weather roads, which has led to a reduced transport burden, women's empowerment and improved agricultural incomes, said Yoshimichi Kawasumi, the World Bank's project leader. These outcomes are the result of combined contributions by Government, investing in regional rural roads, and development partners in restoring the main road network. The classified main roads have nearly doubled to about 45,000 kilometers with the increase in roads in good condition.

During phase I, 8,709 km of roads were constructed or rehabilitated. The first two components of the project alone upgraded the country's major connectors, including the Modjo-Awash-Gewane-Mille (442 km) on the import-export corridor, and the Awash-Hirna-Kulubi-Dire Dawa-Harar (311 km), a gateway to the eastern part of Ethiopia and Somalia. Phase II included the rehabilitation of 988 km of roads, upgrades to 1,758 km, and the construction of 628 km of new gravel roads. And, as of September 2008, heavy or emergency maintenance was completed on 4,199 km of asphalt and gravel roads, and some 70,000 km of community roads were constructed.

As a result, today, the proportion of federal and regional roads in good condition far outweighs the proportion of roads in fair and poor condition. For the road user this means an extended, better built and maintained road network.

Over the past 15 years, I travel from Addis Ababa to Harar at least twice a year for both business and to visit relatives, says Abdella Derese, a motorist who lives in Addis. Prior to the road being built, because of the bad conditions of the road, it used to take me up to 16 hours to get to Harar. Now it takes less than eight hours.

For the rural population it means secured access to greater resources and opportunities in the way of better markets, faster access to health services, lighter transport burdens, and more employment.

Institutional, as Well as Structural, Changes

In addition to infrastructure changes, the Road Sector Development Program's institutional development impact has been substantial. It supports the re-establishment of the Ethiopian Road Authority (ERA), now the project's implementing agency, as an autonomous institution with its management accountable to a board. Because of this, major reforms have been introduced, particularly those aimed at commercializing the ERA's operations. This ensures reliable road infrastructure and efficient road agencies.

Other highlights of the project include:

  • The six-fold increase in annual road fund revenues;
  • An increase to 58 percent in 2008 in the share of the annual contract price awarded to local contractors;
  • Smaller transport tariffs and less travel time reported by rural populations;
  • An increase in income opportunities for women from labor-based works and a smaller domestic transport burden; and
  • A wider range of alternative income and diversification of agriculture, translating to higher prices for commercial sales of agricultural produce and decreased agricultural inputs.

The Ethiopian government and its partners point to policy and institutional reforms, as well as procedural changes, as the reason for the project's success. The government has also expressed a commitment to further improving and extending the main road network under the Road Sector program.

World Bank Support

The World Bank's first contribution to the government's Ethiopia Road Sector Development Program was in the form of an International Development Association credit of US$309.2 million (1998-2005), which was followed by an Adoptable Program Lending of US$845 million in four stages (2004-1016). The Bank, with other donors, has provided grants and credits to the program since 1998; so far, total Bank support is over $1.1 billion.

Partners in the project include the European Union, African Development Fund, Department of International Development, UK (DFID), Norwegian Development Fund, Deutsche Gesellshaft fur Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ), (Kreditanstalt fur Wiederaufbau (German Bilateral Aid) Japan, Italy, and the Netherlands.