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Ethiopia: In Ethiopia All Roads Lead to Development

Last Updated: June 2009
In Ethiopia All Roads Lead to Development


The Road Sector Development Program Support Project is driving economic growth and opportunity across the country.

Roads are the backbone of a country’s infrastructure and the frame of a country’s economic development. They support growth in agriculture and industry, open corridors, port links and tourism areas, and connect each region to the rest of the country. Roads also furnish access to internal markets and social infrastructure such as schools and health centers.

In the 1990s, the government of Ethiopia knew that a major expansion of the road network was a sine qua non for its development goals―namely, (a) advance the private sector; (b) upgrade and expand essential infrastructure; and (c) conserve the environment. With this is mind, Ethiopia’s leaders formulated the 10-year Road Sector Development Program (RSDP 1997–2007), a two-phased integrated package of investments, sectoral reforms, and institutional reorganization, which was later extended to a third phase up to the end of June 2010.

IDA, along with other partners, had been supporting the program preparation process, and soon joined in the financing. And, as the first step of a phased participation in a sector investment program, the Bank approved the Road Sector Development Program Support Project (RSDPSP) to help implement the government’s ambitious program.


The project planners first looked at the overall road sector issues then defined policy and institutional reforms, as well as the levels of interventions, that would help achieve their objectives. Eventually, RSDSP would achieve the following:

- Improve trunk and regional rural road access to meet the agricultural and other economic development needs
- Build institutional capacity in both the public and private sectors for sustainable road development and maintenance
- Provide economic opportunity for the rural poor both through increased employment in rural road works and affordable transport and services.

The first two components alone upgraded the country’s major connectors, including the Modjo-Awash-Gewane-Mille (442 km) on the import-export corridor, and the Awash-Hirna-Kulubi-Dire Dawa-Harar (311 km), a gateway to the eastern part of Ethiopia and Somalia.


Eleven years from the launch of RSDP I, and now through the implementation of RSDP II and III, there have been some remarkable changes in both Ethiopia’s road conditions and the road sector.

During RSDP I, 8,709 km of roads were constructed or rehabilitated. During RSDP II, 988 km of roads were rehabilitated, 1,758 km upgraded, and 628 km constructed as new gravel roads.

Meanwhile, as of September 2008, heavy or emergency maintenance was completed on 4,199 km of asphalt and gravel roads, and some 70,000 km of community roads were constructed. Now, the proportion of federal and regional roads in good condition far outweighs the proportion of roads in fair and poor condition.

For the road user this means an extended, better built and maintained road network. For the rural population it means secured access to greater resources and opportunities in the way of better markets, faster access to health services, lighter transport burdens, and more employment.

In addition, the project’s institutional development impact is substantial. The RSDPSP supports the re-establishment of the Ethiopian Road Authority, now the project’s implementing agency, as an autonomous institution with its management accountable to a Board. Because of this, major reforms were introduced, particularly those aimed at commercializing the operations of ERA. This ensures reliable road infrastructure and efficient road agencies.

Some other highlights include:
- The road fund annual revenue amount increased more than six-fold.
- The share of the annual total contract price awarded to local contractors has substantially increased, reaching 58 percent in 2008.
- Rural populations report smaller transport tariffs and less travel time.
- Opportunities for women have increased through income from labor-based works and a smaller domestic transport burden.
- There has been a wider range of alternative income and diversification of agriculture, translating to higher prices for commercial sales of agricultural produce and decreased agricultural inputs.


The World Bank’s contribution to this project was in the form of an IDA credit for US$ 309.2 million. The Bank, with other donors, has been providing grant and credits to Ethiopia’s Road Sector Development Program since 1995; so far, total Bank support is over $1.1 billion. IDA’s participation has therefore been vital to the implementation of the long-term national program.


Since the launch of the RSDP in 1997, donor coordination for the government's RSDP Phase I, II and III has been implemented through the Ethiopian Roads Authority. These partners include the European Union, African Development Fund, Department of International Development, UK (DFID), Norwegian Development Fund, Deutsche Gesellshaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ), ( Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau (German Bilateral Aid) Japan, Italy, and the Netherlands.

Next Steps

The government is committed to improving and extending the main road network under its Road Sector Development Program, and Phase III is scheduled for closing in June 2010.

When asked why this project was such a success, the government and its partners point to the policy and institutional reforms, as well as procedural changes that emerged. All agree that these reforms should be maintained and deepened in the long-term.

Only continued government commitment to the sector policy, institutional reforms, and funding will ensure sustainability. And the share of the government in the total road expenditure, especially after 2005, has spiked&8213;a good sign that road sector development is heading in the right direction.

Learn More

Ethiopia Road Sector Development Program Support Project (1998–2005)
Project Documents

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