As is the case in markets from Dakar to Durban, roads in Tanzania handle the majority of the country’s internal trade, largely due to a lack of alternatives, with rail suffering from underinvestment and poor maintenance. Port congestion and railway deterioration have led to rising road traffic and congestion in Dar es Salaam and border roads. Rapid economic growth and a longstanding shortfall in investment has strained the country’s road network, with the African Development Bank (AfDB) reporting that overloading is one of the most significant issues facing the roads sector.

Increasing Demand

The Ministry of Works, Transport and Communications (MWTC) reported that the Surface and Marine Transport Regulatory Authority – the road transport regulator – issued 26,018 passenger vehicle operating licences between July 2016 and March 2017, a 16% year-on-year (y-o-y) rise, while 41,918 truck licences were issued over the same period, a 9.8% y-o-y increase. This is particularly problematic given the limited capacity of some major arterial roads.

“The southern corridor to Zambia is a single lane, which is not enough capacity to cater to the trucks travelling that route. Logistics costs are up to 60% of total operational costs for businesses in Tanzania, because port charges are so high and highways need to be dualised,” Lusekelo Mwakibete, chairman of the Tanzania Truck Owners Association, told OBG. It has also led to aggravating congestion in the economic capital of Dar es Salaam, especially along Julius Nyerere Road, which connects the main international airport, Julius Nyerere International Airport, to the city.

This has prompted the government to invest significantly in expanding its road networks. The MWTC has made steady progress delivering new projects and maintaining existing networks in recent years through the Tanzania National Roads Authority (TANROADS), completing two-thirds of its planned road construction targets during FY 2016/17. Roads development should continue steadily in the near term on the back of new expressway and flyover construction in Dar es Salaam, as well as expansion of a new bus rapid transit (BRT) network, the Dar Rapid Transit Agency (DART).

To improve the quality of the sector the government is shifting an increasing volume of capital to both new routes and rehabilitation. The MWTC reported steady progress in developing new roads and maintaining existing networks during the period, with TSh582.64bn ($265m) of development project funding allocated to roads projects in the FY 2016/17 budget, According to its FY 2017/18 budget statement, the ministry planned to supervise the construction, rehabilitation and maintenance of 35,000 km of roads during FY 2016/17. It forecasts it will spend TSh1.9trn ($864.2m) on development projects in FY 2017/18.

Recent Progress

TANROADS, which is responsible for trunk and regional road networks, reported that as of March 2017, 433 km of trunk roads had been rehabilitated, against a target of 592 km, and an additional 77 km of trunk roads were paved, against a target of 146.5 km. TANROADS’ regional road programme saw 45.52 km of roads constructed to bitumen standard in FY 2016/17 against a target of 100.7 km, while 520.2 km of regional roads were upgraded to gravel against a target of 1296.7 km. The agency also continued construction works on bridges in Kilombero and Lower Ruvu, while routine maintenance was carried out along 5895.3 km of trunk roads. An additional 1074.5 km of trunk roads were repaired while 12,746.9 km of regional roads underwent maintenance during FY 2016/17.

Outside of TANROADS, a further 987 km of road projects were completed during FY 2016/17, and two new bridges were constructed. These projects included a 187.9-km paved link between Namtumbo, Kilimasera, Matemanga and Tunduru, as well as a 137.3-km connection between Tunduru, Nakapanya and Mangaka, and a 65.5-km stretch between Mangaka and Mtambaswala. The MWTC reported that it achieved 67% of its road development objectives during the period.