Transport May Be The Ultimate Luxury In Africa

Transport May Be The Ultimate Luxury In Africa

From Mail&Guardian. Story by Christine Mungai.

In some countries in Africa, spending on transportation is far, far higher for wealthy families than might be expected.

Mail&Guardian Africa compared spending on food and on transport from data provided by World Bank’s Global Consumption Database.

In Tanzania, for example, the richest households spend 10 percent on food, but a staggering 77 percent on transport; in Chad, it’s 12 percent food and 73 percent transport; in Ethiopia, it’s 11 percent food and 59 percent transport, and in Ghana, it’s 18 percent food and 45 percent on transport.

It suggests that basic transport infrastructure is so inefficient that it pushes up costs to the stratosphere, relatively speaking; it’s so expensive that the rich are forking out more than half of their income on just getting around.

All over Africa, the poor don’t even bother, only travelling when absolutely necessary and typically spend less than 8 percent of income on transport.

Tanzania is a good case study, where rich households spend more that three-quarters of their income on transportation, despite big investments in improving road quality over the past decade.

Over the past few years, the country has made much progress in road sector reform and network quality; as of 2006, about 95 percent of the paved network and 69 percent of the unpaved network are in good condition, compared to 80 percent and 58 percent in low-income countries.

But that still isn’t enough to bring transport costs down. The roads might be good quality, but they are simply not enough of them.

The density of paved roads is well below the norm for low-income countries, with 47.1 kilometers of paved roads per 1000 square kilometers of arable land. This lags far behind the average for low-income countries, which was 86.6, and for middle-income countries, which was 507.4.

Other non-tarriff barriers have the effect of reducing competition in the transport industry. According to the Tanzania Revenue Authority, just 800,000 Tanzanians have driving licenses, out of an adult population of about 25 million; so the majority (even those relatively wealthy) travel by public means.

But one World Bank study showed East Africa’s major transport corridors, there is a roadblock every 30-to-50 kilometers. The bribes paid at the roadblocks and weigh bridges per truck or bus ranged from $2.40 to $16.80, pushing up the costs of transport.

Read more at Mail&Guardian.