The importance of road maintenance for economic and social development, as well as for the preservation of investment in road infrastructure, is widely acknowledged. Major road sector reforms in the 1990s in Sub-Saharan Africa, introducing a commercialised approach to road management, have led to benefits mainly related to strategic road networks. Much is still to gain with respect to rural road networks, where the benefits from investment in maintenance are less tangible but equally significant.
This regional project in Africa, led by Civil Design Solutions (CDS) in collaboration with the University of Birmingham (UK), has been commissioned to address issues related to management of rural road networks. Its objectives are to:
Review the literature on road asset management and maintenance programmes and identify 'what works' and 'what doesn't work' for road maintenance in the type of environment encountered in rural areas in Africa;
Develop a framework for measuring performance in road asset management appropriate to sub-national rural road networks and apply it in selected project areas;
Develop simple and appropriate tools for monitoring road condition and apply them in the project areas;
Develop simple indicators of economic and social impact of rural roads and monitor them in the project areas;
Achieve incremental (and measurable improvements to asset management performance in the project areas over the duration of the project.
The approach to the project is intended to foster self-reliance in road agencies and encourage greater accountability to road users and other sector stakeholders. The approach focuses on improved performance in road asset management rather than on any specific or pre-conceived road asset management systems or institutional, management and funding arrangements. Support to this process is being provided through demand-led technical assistance funded by UK Aid through AfCAP.
Capacity building is an integral part of the project and involves providing advice and know-how to local staff to improve local asset management performance. Allied to this a researcher in Sierra Leone and one in Uganda are being trained to undertake research via research degrees whose outcomes are intimately linked to the objectives of the project. In addition, students undertaking the University of Birmingham's Masters programme in Road Management and Engineering are also offered the opportunity to undertake associated research projects.
The project is being implemented in three phases:
Formulation phase (December 2015 – June 2016): This included development of a detailed implementation methodology and achievement of objectives 1 to 4, selection of participating countries and the establishment of a Project Implementation Team (PIT) consisting of representatives of the four participating regions and the project team.
Implementation phase (launched in July 2016): This included the identification of a project road network in each of the participating areas. Baseline data were collected on the road networks including the condition of the road and indicators of social and economic conditions in villages and trading centres. The road agencies conducted a self-assessment of their performance in road asset management using the questionnaire developed in the project framework. The baseline data were presented by the road agencies during the first PIT meeeting held in Caledon, Western Cape, South Africa in November 2016. Data will be collected annually in each project area for comparison with the baseline. The results will be presented and discussed at PIT meetings held each year in November.
Dissemination phase during which the findings will be documented and disseminated to key stakeholders through one or more dissemination workshops. Comments from the workshop(s) will be used to finalise the Final Report on the Study.
The funded component of the project is due for completion at the end of January, 2019.
The ultimate beneficiaries of the project are rural communities in sub-Sahara Africa. Three AfCAP partner countries have been selected to engage in the implementation phase of the project: Sierra Leone, Uganda and Zambia. One district road agency in each of these countries has been identified for piloting the project approaches. The Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) is participating as an agency responsible for rural roads. The Department of Transport and Public Works, Western Cape Government, South Africa, is participating as an exemplar of best practice in rural road asset management.
The project has developed a new indicator of performance in rural road asset management known as the Rural Access Performance Indicator (RAPI). The RAPI measures performance of a road agency against the six building blocks for road preservation, namely: external factors (including political influences), institutional arrangements, financing of maintenance, organisation of the agency, technical aspects and operations. The RAPI can be applied to any rural roads agency in a developing country. It is expected to become an important global indicator for the rural mobility sector.
The self-assessment of performance in rural road asset management and the calculation of the RAPI enables roads agencies to identify shortcomings in their performance. These shortcomings can then be addressed through the agencies' capacity development programmes.
Inaccessibility in Tonkolili district, Sierra Leone; inundation adds 30-40kms to journeys (Photo: CDS)
Mobilisation Report, December 2015
Inception Report, February 2016
Research paper, Specification for Rural Road Asset Management Performance, March 2016
Research paper, Economic Growht through Effective Road Asset Management, March 2016
Workshop Report, A New Specification for the Effective Management of RuralRoads, March 2016
Final Formulation Phase Report, May 2016
Inception Report for the Implementation Phase, September 2016
Project Leaflet, October 2016
Consolidated Baseline Study report, August 2017