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Sub-Saharan Africa Transport

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"Linking People to Resources and Opportunities"

Blue arrow Mission
Blue arrow Past Bank Involvement
Blue arrow Recent Developments in the Transport Sector
Blue arrow Current Portfolio and Key Issues by Sub-Sector
Blue arrow Publications and other Resources


The Africa Transport Unit (AFTTR) is working to develop reliable, cost-effective and safe transport, infrastructure and services in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) that are environmentally and socially responsive. This includes supporting reforms that improve regional competitiveness and trade within the global economy.

Past Bank involvement

BusBefore the 1980s most transport businesses — railways, bus and trucking companies, airports, seaports, and civil aviation — were publicly owned and managed, and heavily regulated. These businesses operated at a loss and remained tied to government financial support for survival. Poor cost recovery — partly resulting from low tariffs — and general subsidies reduced the viability of transport service operations and imposed heavy costs on both users and the macroeconomy.

In the port, highways, and railway sectors, the Bank's assistance concentrated on engineering and related construction aspects, giving only limited attention to financial management, institutional strengthening, and manpower development. While this strategy was able to address serious infrastructure bottlenecks, investments could not be sustained because of poor governance, inadequate maintenance, and a lack of local capacity.

In the rural areas, the Bank helped African countries construct rural roads, mainly through agriculture-centered rural development projects. These projects focused on delivering infrastructure but did not build a sustainable basis for the management and financing of the roads or provide cross — sector links between rural roads and poverty impact. Studies on rural transport showed the plight of rural dwellers, especially women, who spent substantial time and energy on transport activities, to the detriment of their development potential.

Similarly, in urban areas, a lack of understanding of land use and urban planning issues — for example, rights of way — as well as job and housing location, pollution, noise, accidents, stakeholder incomes, and inter-modal efficiency demonstrated that transport strategy had to be planned within a comprehensive framework.

Recent developments in the transport sector

TrainSince the 1990s the transport sector has undergone a major transformation. The transport business has mostly been deregulated, and transport policies have been modified to permit market-determined decisions, enterprise autonomy, and private participation in the ownership and management of transport business. Most bus and trucking companies have been privatized, and governments generally agree on concessioning the railways, ports and harbors, and airports, and in some cases have already initiated the process. Private contractors are rapidly replacing force account in the rehabilitation and maintenance of roads and transport infrastructure. In addition, public enterprises have been given considerable autonomy, and arbitrary regulation has been replaced by regulation through consensual performance contracts. In the highway sector, setting up of more sustainable institutions — autonomous road agencies and dedicated road funds —- has become the norm, and in some countries has started to show positive results.

The transport infrastructure maintenance crisis of the 1980s (especially with the main and rural roads) led to the creation of the Sub-Saharan African Transport Program (SSATP). SSATP covered all transport sub-sectors, with a heightened focus on the Road Management Initiative (RMI) for the main roads and the Rural Travel and Transport Program (RTTP) for rural transport.

However, with thirty-one active member countries and full engagement by all SSA Regional Economic Communities, the program has now adopted a holistic approach to policy development, with members committed to implementing transport sector strategies anchored in poverty reduction programs. At the regional level, the SSATP is trying to fulfill its role within the African Union's integration goals by focusing on corridor-based trade and transport facilitation initiatives. Because all program members are Bank clients, there is more strategic clarity about policies and better operational coherence between countries and regions.

Bank interventions have also moved towards a renewed focus on sustainable financing and management of the infrastructure networks, market-oriented public-private partnership, and fundamental restructuring of the transport industry — as well as direct investments in rehabilitating the infrastructure. A substantial part of Bank involvement has been carried out as part of the macroeconomic dialogue in the form of Country Assistance Strategies (CAS), which emphasize corporate restructuring, private participation, and regulatory reform.

Current portfolio and key issues by sub-sector

Currently, thirty-four transport projects account for about 20 percent of the Bank's lending portfolio in Sub-Saharan Africa. Preparation of new transport projects account for 33 percent of the sector's FY05 program, which will continue to grow. The Africa Transport Sector seeks to achieve lower transport costs — for growth — and promote accessibility — for equity. Selecting the right interventions helps ensure that transport infrastructure and services correspond to the country's current level of development and foster growth and poverty reduction.

Transport Lending chart


Roads are the predominant mode for freight and passenger transport in Africa. The challenge is to secure cost-effective improvements in services by expanding and improving road networks and by maintaining the existing road base. This calls for capital investment — most of which is likely to be based on external, concessional financing — improved domestic financing for maintenance, and efficient road management institutions.

Sustainable road management requires (a) dedicated user related road financing arrangements, (b) commercially oriented road management agencies, and (c) private sector contracting. These strategies have in most cases arrested, and even reversed, the decline in funding and in maintenance standards, and a substantial amount of institutional building has been achieved.

There is also the challenge of increasing both technical innovation (road pavement structures etc.) and institutional innovation (greater private sector involvement in road management, use of performance-based contracting methods etc.). The Bank will work with its development partners to find external financing for the sector, and will itself contribute in large measure — both through stand alone investment project support and through programmatic lending instruments that support public expenditure strategies.

Generally, client countries share the core concept of business-like road management. Sector-wide approaches (SWAPs) are being adopted for road sector lending, coupled with phased adaptable program loans, which are linked to an agreed upon reform program. In addition, poverty reduction strategies include considerable funding for rural roads. However, while management of main roads has improved in client countries, there are still persisting weaknesses in rural road management

Rural transport
Appropriate rural transport policies and strategies (RTPS) are critical to successful implementation of rural transport projects. These RTPS must clarify issues about the management and finance of rural roads, and must examine the improvement of rural transport services through both motorized and non-motorized means of transport. Recent pilot interventions in some of our client countries about the use of intermediate means of transport are not yet conclusive.

There is a strong need for the transport unit to be involved in the preparation of non-transport projects, including agricultural and community driven development (CDD) projects. This will ensure sustainability of the investments through appropriate management and financing arrangements for rural transport infrastructure.

Air transport
The Bank's involvement in this sub-sector addresses:

Blue arrowPolicy advice and knowledge transfer, in partnership with other institutions, on regulatory reforms that will attract the private sector, as well as on airline restructuring and commercialization of airport operations;
Blue arrowPartnerships with institutions such as ICAO, the FAA, ASECNA — and with the private sector — on air navigation, security, and safety issues;
Blue arrowFinancing capacity improvement in safety and security;
Blue arrowFinancing physical improvements that lead to greater private participation.

In addition, there might be a demand for the Bank's guarantee instrument and/or for IFC and MIGA involvement as greater private participation takes hold. In air transport, key partners are regional and global bodies, while regional approaches are needed for the regulatory framework and the establishment of joint air space control and safety oversight. New regional Bank instruments should therefore develop and support regional /sub-regional strategies and projects.

Port and maritime
The Bank's involvement in the port sub-sector follows two tracks, although in many cases the distinction between the two will not be precise: (a) where market size allows it, the focus is on sector reform and private sector participation; (b) where market size is limited, the focus is on rationalization of public sector management and operation.

The Bank will foster partnerships with international and regional institutions and professional associations, as well as strengthen local stakeholder inputs. The Bank will also address environmental, social, and security issues, specifically in view of the constraints imposed by the new security related international conventions (ISPS Code).

The Bank's involvement in the maritime sub-sector intends to strengthen regulatory and enforcement capacity, in accordance with international norms and agreements, and to promote fair competition.

The Bank's railway sector work deals with the following:

Blue arrowConcessioning railways and, in particular, monitoring the railwayconcessions already operational (Burkina Faso/Côte d'Ivoire, Cameroon, Madagascar, Senegal/Mali, Gabon, and Malawi), helping to finalize concessions, where the process is in progress (Mozambique, Ghana, Tanzania/Zambia, Zimbabwe, Kenya/Uganda, Tanzania and Congo, DRC), and motivating the last public railway operators to start the concessioning process;
Blue arrowStrengthening the transport and supply chains within the region by helping to coordinate operational agreements among the different railway systems regarding infrastructure access charges, performance norms, information sharing, joint billing etc.;
Blue arrowHelping railways to resolve their post-concessioning problems — i.e., retrenchment of surplus staff, resettlement, disposal of surplus assets, and formal winding up of the companies;
Blue arrowClarifying and strengthening the legal and regulatory framework in each country;
Blue arrowAssisting with investments that strengthen the concessioning process.

Urban transport
Urban areas in Africa countries typically account for over half of their country's national industrial and commercial investments. But the transport infrastructure and services within these areas are generally inadequate, which reduces the productivity of investments and, in fact, contributes to urban poverty. With more attention being placed on linking transport policies and strategies to poverty reduction, urban transport issues will have to be addressed.

The transport unit has developed two approaches to deal with this issue. The first, under the SSATP, provides infrastructures for use by non-motorized transport (principally the foot and bicycles) in order to meet the travel needs of the urban poor. The second, in the framework of the on-going Lagos Urban Transport Project, adopts policy and institutional reforms to use existing transport resources better and to make strategic additions sustainable over the medium to long term.

Regional transport
Regional transport helps promote regional integration and regional and international trade, which promote growth and therefore reduce poverty. The regional economic institutions will lead the development of the regional programs in partnership with the countries and the private sector. At the Bank level, we will work with our macroeconomic colleagues on governance issues (road barriers), non-tariff barriers, and customs reforms.

A number of regional initiatives are being implemented. These include (a) corridors for landlocked countries, e.g., SADC Transport Corridors initiative; (b) facilitation of trade and transport procedures, e.g., WAEMU initiative in West Africa, Central Africa (CEMAC), and East Africa (EAC); (c) supply chain/logistic for some key African exports, e. g., cotton from Chad or Niger through Cameroon or Benin; (d) ECOWAS and CEMAC aviation safety and security improvement; and (e) cross-border HIV, e.g., the HIV/AIDS project for the Abidjan-Lagos transport corridor.

Emergency recovery assistance
A country may request aid from the Bank when struck by an emergency that seriously dislocates its economy and calls for a quick response from the government. The main objectives of emergency recovery assistance are to restore assets and production levels in the disrupted economy.

Bank emergency assistance may take the form of (a) immediate support in assessing the emergency's impact and developing a recovery strategy; (b) restructuring the Bank's existing portfolio for the country to support recovery activities; (c) redesign of projects not yet approved to include recovery activities; and (d) provision of an emergency recovery loan (ERL).

Africa Transport used these instruments for a quick and effective response to the floods that hit Mozambique in 2000 and 2001 and caused severe damages to the road network. The Bank's road portfolio in Mozambique was immediately restructured to include emergency repairs to the road network, with flexible procurement procedures. Since Mozambique is exposed to recurrent tropical cyclones, the mitigation and emergency response are now part of the multi-donor roads and bridges program.

Africa Transport also responded to the requests of the governments of DRC and Angola to help prepare their emergency post-conflict multi-sector reconstruction programs, and designed the Bank's contribution to these reconstruction programs. The DRC's Emergency Multi-sector Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Program is progressing well, and the Angola Emergency Multi-sector Recovery Project is expected to be approved by the Bank in January 2005.

In September 2004 the Board approved the proposed Casamance Emergency Reconstruction Support Project. This project's goal is the rapid reintegration of the entire population of Casamance into a favorable economic and social environment, and the establishment of a foundation for long-term sustainable development. It will signal to all stakeholders—from the Casamance population to the Senegal partners—that the government of Senegal will lead in Casamance recovery, with strong support from the World Bank. It should encourage other Senegal partners to implement their activities for the benefit of the Casamance population and help bring peace back to the region.

Publications and other Resources

  World Bank Related Transport Publications
Blue arrow  SSA Transport Sector Document and Reports


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