The ‘Road Economics’ pandemonium

BY: Dr Hod Anyigba
Kwasi Amoako-Attah - Minister of Roads and Highways
Kwasi Amoako-Attah - Minister of Roads and Highways

“We plan to modernise the road network. All the feeder and inner roads will get a face lift. The N1 and N4 are key road networks that require immediate attention. 

The Tema motorway - a dual purpose carriage road - will be transformed considerably to enable smooth travel from Tema to Accra”.

As if this is not enough… “Campaigners promise to cure the ills of society, including taxes, jobs for the youth, low interest rates, accessible education, poverty reduction, affordable housing, government corruption, infrastructure and the economy”.

Politicians seeking office make promises

They are habitual and serial promisors. Huffs and puffs all these years after independence – and it is still difficult to put your finger on one thing we can be proud of.

The ‘gods’ must be angry

In fact aerial pictures of Accra, depicts strands of forest lands in marshy-wet farmlands.
 
The brown and dusty roads - spacely dispersed settlements in the outskirts show no hope for development – to put is pessimistically.

It seems as though, these lands were reserved for farming, yet thousands of people reside on these lands.

The domiciles of ‘the neglected’.

The roads are unmotrable, culminating in stunted development.

The story is not different from the urban centres.

But transportation is very crucial. So how did we get here?

Crunching the numbers

Measures of road length support the notion that Ghana’s road network is far behind the developed counties.

It ranks number 45 in the world.

Total length of paved roads is 13, 787km and unpaved 95, 728km, thus 69 per cent of all motorable roads in Ghana which is 109,515km. Airports with paved runways, 7, airports with unpaved runways, 3, railways 947, waterways 1,293, merchant marine 44, ports and terminals 2.Paved roads are not necessarily better than unpaved roads in some instances; particularly when maintenance is poor, pavement may actually provide a worse surface, with potholes, than dirt or gravel.

Comparatively, South Africa maintains the following statistics: total length of paved roads is 158,952km and unpaved 588, 062km. Airports with paved runways, 144, airports with unpaved runways 422, railways 747,014, ports and terminals 5.

Roads and economic development

A large fraction of Ghana’s population continues to earn a living from quasi-subsistence agriculture in the rural areas or petty trading in the sub-urban and urban centres.

By any measure, rural and agricultural households are overwhelmingly and disproportionally disadvantaged.

Living standards in these deprived districts are relatively low, mostly as a result of the bad transportation infrastructure.

Existing road networks in the country leave many communities inaccessible by vehicles, and very few rural residents therefore have restricted access to hospitals, school, market places, and places of worship, entertainment, and general economic activities. In advanced economies bike workouts that burn fat are prescribed elements of keeping fit but in less remote areas, people make effective use of bicycles and motorcycles.

Trucks, buses and cars traverse these bad roads, with potential economic pitfalls awaiting drivers.  Trucks transporting foodstuff may breakdown along these roads causing negative spillovers. The negative impacts of bad or no roads are endless.

Transaction costs

The poor quality of Ghana’s roads network corresponds directly to the environment of high transaction costs that contribute to high cost of food prices, transportation costs, and traffic accidents.

The surge in road accidents, as seen in recent times, have negative impact on market confidence, peace and stability.

Of course, not all of the price differences across markets are due to be actual to transportation costs but these costs are significant enough to warrant full research.

Ghana currently suffers from a substantial deficit in transportation infrastructure  and there have been incessant calls by advocates to increase spending on road construction and maintenance.

Road improvements are most likely to have value in both rural and urban zones but more in urban zones due to the aggregate economic output in the urban centres.

Road construction is expensive but necessary.

One sure way to be ahead is to incorporate the costs associated with transportation infrastructure to better provide a good guidance on policy. But who is listening? — GB

The author is an Assistant Professor of Economics and Entrepreneurship at Nobel International Business School – Africa’s Premier Doctoral School. Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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