Roads are considered an essential public asset for administrative and strategic reasons and village accessibility has been a primary goal of rural road investments linked to minimum needs and basic minimum services programs (Asif, F. 2012).
There are approximately 700,000 kilometers of rural roads out of a total of over 1.02 million kilometers of road in SSA with concentrations in a few countries. Three countries (Nigeria, Cameroon and Côte d’Ivoire) have more than half the rural roads in West Africa, while Zaire, Zimbabwe, Madagascar and Tanzania account for more than two thirds of East African rural roads. The density of rural roads is low compared with other parts of the world. Nigeria has about 90 meters of rural road per square kilometer, but an acceptable ‘target’ density, based on Indian experience in areas with similar population densities to those in Nigeria, and would be about 730 meters. Density also varies widely within countries. In Kenya, highly populated provinces with abundant natural resources have 400 to 500 meters per square kilometer, falling to less than 30 meters in non productive areas. Sparse populations and low agricultural productivity mean that the burden of providing and maintaining an adequate rural road network falls more heavily on SSA populations than it does, for example, on the heavily populated and productive countries of Southeast Asia. Whereas road lengths per head of population are high, they are still low per unit of area (John,Juan,; Sydney,1990.4).
The need for a better rural transport infrastructure in SSA is pressing and obvious. The structural transformation from subsistence to market economy is dependent on transport. The potential gains in agricultural outputs and incomes, which is unlikely to occur without improved roads, would be sufficient to make the economic case for the level of expenditure mentioned above. In practically all countries, a rapid expansion of rural road networks would not be feasible unless adequate financial and institutional arrangements for planning construction and maintenance can be put in place (ibid).
The sparse densities and the low level of income in rural areas imply a heavier burden per capita. The all around weakness of rural infrastructure management capabilities severely constrains resource mobilization and maintenance. Hence, while Africa is underequipped in relation to its potential it is overburdened by the little infrastructure that it possesses (ibid).
The developing world, and especially the African continent, has a very poorly developed infrastructure, compared to middle- and high-income countries. On average, Sub-Saharan Africa has a road density of only approximately 200 meters of paved roads per km2 compared to 1400 meters in high-income OECD countries (Fay and Yepes, 2008 as cited in Hannah, 2014). Recently, enhancing transport infrastructures has been a vital strategy for sustainable development and poverty reduction in developing regions. Reducing poverty by half is one of the Millennium Development Goals in 2015. There is wide recognition that the poor not only have low level consumption but they are also less connected with inadequate access to basic services. The international community has thus been providing considerable support to build roads, rail ways, bridges, power plants, and some basic infrastructures with the objective of promoting economic growth (Lulit, 2012).
1.1. Background of the study
The Ethiopian Roads Authority (ERA) is a legally autonomous organization established on January 26, 1951. Ever since its establishment, the Authority has gone through a series of structural changes, the most recent one being in July 2011 by the Council of Ministers Regulation No. 247/2011. This regulation agrees with the split of the operational and regulatory wings as two independent entities, leaving ERA to focus on Road Network Development and Asset Management rather than construction and maintenance of same. Hence, the main objectives of ERA, as stated in the aforementioned regulation, are to develop and administer roads, create conducive conditions for the coordinated development of roads network, and ensure the maintenance of standards in road construction (Azeb, 2006).
The Government of Ethiopia has well recognized that limited road network coverage and
poor condition of the existing road network has been an impediment to economic recovery and economic growth. Therefore, to address the problems in the road sector; the
Government has launched the Road Sector Development Program (RSDP) in 1997. Since
then, four phases of RSDP were implemented over the period of 1997 – 2015 and the fifth
phase; RSDP V has been implemented since July 2015 ( ERA:2016:1).
RSDP has been financed from domestic sources including GOE, Road users through Road Fund Office and community, and foreign sources including bilateral and multilateral institutions. The Government has been major financer of RSDP followed by the World Bank. Development partners including the World Bank (WB), European Union (EU), African Development Bank (ADB), Nordic Development Fund (NDF), Bank of Arab for Economic Development in Africa (BADEA), OPEC Fund for International Development (OFID) and the Governments of Japan, Germany, U.K, Ireland, the Saudi Fund for Development, the Kuwait Fund and the Government of China have been involving in financing the Program. The recent donor which joined this effort is Abu Dhabi Fund (ERA 2016).
Roads are clearly a critical enabling condition for improving living conditions in rural areas. However, the distribution of socioeconomic benefits resulting from a rural road is a separate issue, and there are no guarantees or inherent mechanisms to ensure that these benefits will be distributed equitably between the poor and the non-poor in communities.
According to (World Bank, 2005. 4). The Government has a set vision to make public, economic and social services physically more accessible to the rural population. There remains a critical need to provide rural communities with transportation infrastructure and services that ensures permanent accessibility to social and government services, economic and business services, and better opportunities for employment and income generation. In response to this need, and as part of the RSDP-IV, Government is embarking on a Universal Rural Road Access Program (URRAP) that sets out to connect all Kebele by roads of a standard that provides all-weather, year round access, meets the needs of the rural communities, are affordable and maintainable.
As a catalyst, the URRAP is designed to improve rural livelihoods by reducing isolation for rural populations and to provide year round access to their markets, social and other services. The program focuses on poverty reduction and is an important poverty alleviation catalyst. It is seen as an essential pillar for delivery of GTP and our MDG targets and furthermore underpins Government’s actions and vision for expansion of all sectors of the economy (ibid).
The program recognizes the challenges faced by isolated communities and their constraints in trying to take part in our economic growth. The program provides a response to the voice of the rural poor who demand and have a basic right to access to transport, social and other services. As part of the RSDP, URRAP “joins up” and harmonizes all rural road infrastructure development under a single umbrella. The program unifies all efforts that provide improved road access (ibid).
URRAP is not prescriptive in its approach. It recognizes fully the local context, local needs, local capabilities and local realities and builds on and rolls out the experiences and lessons learned on the ground in Ethiopia through a number of key pilot programs and projects implemented over the last five years or so. The program promotes application of innovation, knowledge and learning (ibid).
URRAP is realistic and achievable in that it provides the opportunity to establish sustainable road access at an appropriate standard and affordable cost. The inclusion of labour-based approaches, community contributions and an expanded participation by the private sector are key elements. The program captures the preservation of assets through streamlining of sustainable maintenance and management systems, such as implementation of length-man approaches (ibid).
The program is multi-dimensional in its outlook and inclusive in its approach. It removes barriers and promotes participation from communities, private sector and all layers of government and as such is a facilitator for development. In its approach the program promotes road user safety, equality and protection of our environmental assets.
The vision for the Universal Rural Road Access Program is a clear and simple one: To free the country’s rural peoples from their access constraints, reduce rural poverty, improve welfare and opportunity, stimulate agro-productivity and share growth – a growth in which poor people benefit. In its mission, the Universal Rural Road Access Program will connect all Kebele by all-weather roads and will provide communities year round access. Road infrastructure will be of appropriate standards to meet the needs of the rural communities and will be affordable to build and maintain