Ghana: Roads well travelled

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Given the importance of Ghana’s road infrastructure to the country’s ongoing economic development, the government has been pouring extensive resources towards expanding motorway networks and connectivity. A major hurdle, however, is the ability of the country to fund and finance ongoing maintenance.

Provisional GDP estimates for 2011 released by the Ghana Statistical Service in mid-October estimated that the transport and storage sub-sector would see 7.1% growth this year, one of four services sub-sectors expected to see robust growth rates.

At a Transport Sector Performance Review Conference in late September, Alhaji Collins Dauda, the minister of transport, stressed the importance of local connectivity in underwriting Ghana’s ambition to consolidate its middle-income nation status.

Dausa also pointed to considerable progress made in the sector recently, including the Accra-Asaprochona-Tema suburban railway line, which extends from the industrial hub of Tema Harbour east to Accra and is 60% complete; and consultants are being hired to design and commence work on the expansion of the Takoradi Port, in the Western Region, to handle the expected increase in hydrocarbons shipping.

However, some of the biggest efforts of the government have been directed towards the roads network. Over the past decade the government has carried out a number of major road expansion projects in an effort to improve the quality of the main routes and increase inter-urban linkages. Road development in Ghana is overseen by three agencies within the Ministry of Roads and Highways (MoRH), namely the Ghana Highway Authority, the Department of Urban Roads and the Department of Feeder Roads.

As of the end of 2010 the road network covered 67,000 km in total, up substantially from 39,000 km in 2001. In 2010 alone the government finished work on the Ho-Fume, Sogakope-Adidome-Ho, Kumasi-Techiman, Doyormu-Prampram and Nkawkaw-Obemeng highway links; carried out routine maintenance on 3976 km of highways, 1716 km of feeder roads and 1680 km of urban roads; finished up major refurbishment projects on 444 km of highways, 522 km of feeder roads and 700 km of urban roads; and built eight bridges.

This feverish pace of development is expected to continue for the foreseeable future. The MoRH was awarded GHS354.1m ($220.93m) for road projects as part of the 2011 budget, which will go towards continuing work on a substantial number of ongoing projects and breaking ground on a variety of new developments.

A handful of projects are expected to be completed by the end of 2011, including a 75-km trunk road between Agogo and Dome in the Ashanti region; a 14-km stretch of the N1 Highway, which links Tetteh Quarshie to Mallam Junction; and 346 km of feeder roads in rural agricultural areas.

Road projects in Ghana are funded by a wide variety of organisations and joint efforts between various national and international players, and the MoHR is funding a number of ongoing projects. The ministry is paying for the GHS37m ($23.09m) third phase of the 70-km Kpando-Worawora-Dambai highway project, for example, which is currently being carried out by Shinsung, a Korean firm.

Other projects that are currently being funded by the ministry include the 56-km Berekum-Sampa link; the 53.4-km Bamboi-Tinga link; and a 46-km stretch of the Sefwi-Asankragwa highway.

The MoHR and a variety of international organisations jointly fund a number of other ongoing projects. The ministry and the EU, for example, are currently joint investors in phase two of the 75-km Kumasi-Techiman project and a 62.4-km Axim Junction-Tarkwa link, both of which were nearing completion as of mid-2011. The ministry is also working with the African Development Bank on a GHS28.1m ($17.53m), 53.7-km link between Techiman and Apaaso and a GHS17.5m ($10.92m), 31.6-km stretch of the Akatsi-Aflao road.

But challenges have arisen in the maintenance and upkeep of the country’s roads. The Ghana Road Fund, for example, has incurred debts of GHS74.2m ($45.5m) despite an increase in the fund from GHS136m ($83.5m) in 2009 to GHS182m ($111.7m) in 2010. The rise in revenue was due to increases in road and bridge tolls and other fees, Joe Gidisu, the minister of roads and highways, said in mid-October. He also noted that the fund can only meet some 60% of the country’s road maintenance needs, leaving 40% of the network unattended.

“The cumulative effect of this backlog over a period of time can have adverse consequences on the road assets with its associated cost as delays in undertaking maintenance will put the roads into a state of disrepair which in the end will cost eight times the cost of maintenance,” he told local media.

This could have wider effects on the national economy as well. The agriculture sector, which accounted for around 35% of GDP in 2009, is entirely reliant on trucks to move produce from the country’s interior to ports on the Atlantic coast, where it can be exported to foreign markets.

The mining industry, another major economic contributor, similarly relies on the nation’s road network. All told, around 98% of Ghana’s freight traffic is carried by road. Similarly, some 95% of the nation’s passenger traffic travels on the road network.

As a result, Ghana’s close watch on overall transport infrastructure, particularly its road network, is an important component to overall economic growth. As long as funding is secure, transport’s overall impact on GDP is likely to rise into 2012.

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