Rapidly industrialising Ethiopia, Africa’s second most populous country, has set an ambitious target to double the length of its road network by 2020 from its extent in 2015.
The government’s Roads Authority revealed the target on Monday, 28 May, while reporting progress on the second five-year Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP-II), which runs from 2015 to 2020.
In 2015, at the end of GTP-I, the road network had reached 100,000km.
It now stands at 121,171km, according to the roads ministry, including gravel roads.
That represents a large expansion from 1990, when there were just 19,000km of roads. About 90% of them are asphalt.
Road-building now consumes about a quarter of the federal government’s annual infrastructure spending.
Samson Wondimu, a director at the ministry, said in a television interview last week that the road building programme had spent about $11bn over the past 20 years, and that the annual budget for the roads sector had grown 20% to reach $1.7bn.
The present programme includes flagship projects such as the 200km Hawassa expressway in the central-southern area of the country, which got under way after a four-year long search for funds.
The authority is planning similar modern roads around Addis Ababa, and projects are attracting international bidders; Hawassa was won by China Railway Seventh Group in an open tender against a Spanish-Indian joint venture and another Chinese firm.
Wondimu added that regional states were devising plans to assure fair road access, and Ethiopian construction firms were building capacity to take part in the schemes.
Other African countries are watching Ethiopia’s progress in developing its transport and power infrastructure to support the government’s industrialisation drive.
Despite being landlocked, and with few natural resources, it has increased its GDP tenfold in the past 15 years.
Notable efforts include the 750-km electrified railway from Addis Ababa to the port city of neighbouring Djibouti, which began operating in January last year, and the 6GW Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), nearing completion on the Nile.
With a population of 102 million, Ethiopia is second only to Nigeria (186 million) on the African continent in terms of population size.
Image: A car transporter in the Oromia region of Ethiopia (Ji Elle/Creative Commons)