The June 2014 issue of the African Development Bank’s (AFDB) quarterly knowledge publication, evaluation Matters, was released on July 11. This issue focuses on the transport sector in Africa, a sector that has long languished behind that of other world regions. The publication of this Transport Issue comes on the heels of the recent discussion by the Bank’s Committee on Development Effectiveness (CODE) of an independent assessment of the AFDB’s transport sector operations entitled: Independent Transport in Africa – AfDB’s Intervention and Results for the Last Decade. The evaluation summary report and a host of background papers and reviews will soon be published.
With contributions from the African Development Bank, which publishes the magazine, the Japanese International Cooperation Agency, and the World Bank, this issue delves into the reasons for Africa’s slow progress with road systems, railways, ports, and cross-border commerce, as well as the continent’s ongoing efforts to improve the situation.
The issue poses seminal questions throughout the 92-page investigation into transport in Africa. How many days does it take for a typical 20-foot container to reach the most accessible port from Bangui? From Ouagadougou? Why does Africa, which has only two per cent of the world’s vehicles, account for 16 per cent of traffic fatalities?
Part of the problem with transport in Africa is that the sector has not received the attention it deserves. “Transport does not feature as a specific goal, because it is regarded as a means to an end, rather than an end in itself,” says Rakesh Nangia, Evaluator General of the African Development Bank’s Independent Development Evaluation (IDEV). If a farmer increases her maize yield 100 per cent but has no decent road to the nearest market, her surplus could rot in the silo. If one country produces a bumper crop of a commodity in demand in a neighbouring country, but cannot get it there because the old bridge was washed out, or because the only ferry is awaiting spare parts, or because the customs officials are corrupt, nobody wins.
The African Development Bank’s focus on transport is neither new nor minor. Since 2000, Bank expenditure on the sector has risen steadily from a 14.5 per cent share of total Bank Group commitments in 2000 to a high of 33.7 per cent in 2010. This prioritization of transport is unique among development banks, and it needs to be. The people of Africa need many things, but none more than good roads, efficient rail systems and ports, and expedited border crossings. The latter necessity is worth underscoring: Africa is only two-thirds the size of Asia, yet it has 16 more countries. In Asia, produce can be freighted over enormous distances without encountering an international border. In Africa, cross-border commerce is virtually unavoidable.
It is arguable that transport is Africa’s number one problem, and that solving it would lead to improvements in other sectors: agriculture, health, education, gender parity, governance. In making transport the focus of this issue of eVALUation Matters, the African Development Bank has shone light on a development priority that has been left in the dark for far too long.
eVALUation Matters is a knowledge product of the African Development Bank’s Independent Development Evaluation (IDEV).
The mission of Independent Development Evaluation is to enhance the development effectiveness of the African Development Bank (AfDB) in its regional member countries through independent and instrumental evaluations and partnerships for sharing knowledge.