Paving the Way Out of Poverty: Expanding Chad’s Transport Network

In Chad, 80 per cent of the population depends on farming and livestock, with many people living in remote rural communities. Chad is also landlocked, making trade with its neighbours vitally important. With no railways and few rivers, Chad is hugely reliant on its roads

Since 2006, the Islamic Development Bank has supported the Government of Chad in their impressive improvement of the national road network. These projects have opened up previously isolated parts of the country, providing rural communities with crucial access to markets and services. And the economic benefits can already be seen: agricultural production has increased as farmers know they can sell their produce, and reduced travel times support many other businesses.

The need for all weather roads

Chad is among the poorest countries in the world  as  determined  by  the  Human

Development Index, with its 14 million people also spread across the fifth largest country in Africa. This low population density means that many have to travel long distances to sell their produce  at  markets,  buy  basic  items, or reach schools and hospitals.

Roads carry more than 95 per cent of Chad’s national and international trade, but only  870 km of the country’s 40,000 km of roads were paved by 2006. Travelling on dirt roads is slow and extremely difficult during the rainy season, isolating many communities and limiting trade.

In light of these problems, the Government of Chad placed a high priority on road construction in its Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper. By expanding the extent of all-weather roads, the government aimed to reduce travel times and costs, increase economic activities (both internal and external trade), and improve poor rural people’s access to services.

Since 2006, IsDB has supported the construction of 380 km of roads in Chad, through projects that focused on two major corridors. Two sections completed in 2011 exemplify the impact of this long-term commitment:

  • the 68 km road from Massaguet to Massakory cost US$59.68 million; IsDB provided a loan of US$10.61 million (18 per cent), with the Government of Chad providing US$49.07 million (82 per cent)
  • the 67 km road from Bokoro to Arboutchatak cost US$62.81 million; IsDB provided US$10.79 million (17 per cent), the Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa US$12.59 million (20 per cent), and the Government of Chad US$39.43 million (63 per cent).

IsDB financed the civil works and consultancy services for these projects. The executing agency for both projects was the national General Roads Directorate (DGR), under the Ministry of Infrastructure and Improved Access.

Two vital links

The roads supported by IsDB provide vital connections to Chad’s neighbours and ports. One corridor runs north from N’Djamena, the capital city, around Lake Chad to the Niger border to increase trade with Niger and improve links to other West African ports via the Trans-Saharan highway, and also begins a connection to Libya and the Mediterranean coast. The second runs east to Abéché, Chad’s fourth-largest city, and beyond to Khartoum, Sudan, and Port Sudan on the Red Sea.

Putting Massakory on the map

Massakory is the regional capital of Hadjer-Lamis. The road from N’Djamena divides into two corridors, one towards Lake Chad and Niger, and another to the far north of the country and on to Libya. A key government objective for road construction projects is to open up trural areas along these paths.

The Ministry of Agriculture has a strategy of identifying priority agricultural zones to be linked to roads, so food can be transported more easily, and allowing production to increase. Korom Mahamat Kosso, the Mayor of Massakory, is clear about the impacts of the Massaguet– Massakory road on his town.

“Before, many traders wouldn’t even come here, stopping at Massaguet where the Tarmac ended. For us, this was a day away – if you got there at all in the rain. Prices were higher, for rice, sugar, cement, everything.”

Since the new road was completed in 2011, all that has changed. “Now, we pay the same prices, and the market is full of fresh fish, fruit and vegetables every morning,” he says. “And it helps everyone further north, too, and the road now being built onwards to Niger will open up the rich farmland around Lake Chad – which will help to feed half the country.”

More vehicles, more business

Expanding the road network has diversified Chad’s options in terms of trade routes to neighbouring countries and ports. As in other landlocked countries in Africa, transport costs make up 50 per cent of the value of exports; better roads will help to reduce this economic burden.

Already, the volume of traffic on these roads has increased. Average traffic on the Massaguet–Massakory road increased from 212 vehicles per day in 2003, before the project started, to 861 vehicles per day in 2016 – a fourfold increase. Traffic on the Bokoro–Arboutchatak road is increasing rapidly even now, rising from 303 vehicles a day in 2015 to 450 in 2016.

The road goes on…

The 1,000 km road that heads east from N’Djamenato Sudan (via Abéché) is now complete, providing an essential link for Chad. The road heading north to Niger currently ends in Massakory, but work on the 85 km stretch to Ngouri is well under way. The  IsDB was a  major financer, providing 96 per cent of the total cost.

This road runs into the Sahara Desert, where water is even more precious than roads. Yet the road will help with this, too, according to Anis Mbazaia, Director General of the road building contractor SOROUBAT-Tchad.

“Maximizing benefits for local communities is all part of the contract. The wells that are built every few kilometres for road construction will be left for their use. We also donate leftover materials for community use,  and build mosques along every road.”

A long-term plan for maintenance

Building a road is a massive undertaking. But keeping paved roads in good condition is no small task, either. Thankfully, the government has ensured that adequate funding for maintenance is in place, through the collection of tolls on the new roads and a levy on fuel tax.

 A dedicated entity has been created to manage road maintenance in partnership with the private sector, and together with strong government support and funding, is keeping up with most of the continual repairs needed.

Additional speed humps  have also been requested by some villages and towns, and have been installed. These are necessary investments to sustain a high-quality road network. The impacts on people’s lives are immediate and significant, and ensuring they last long into the future is essential.

Success factors

A national priority. Improving the road network is the main focus of the National Transport Program, and part of strategies for national and regional integration. It was also highlighted as a national priority in the Government of Chad’s Poverty Reduction Strategy Program. The project therefore contributes to Chad’s development at the strategic level.

An integrated approach to road building. The roads selected for upgrading formed part of a wider national programme of integrated development, which meant that the road projects have helped Chad to meet wider development objectives, such as increasing farm output thanks to linking road building priorities with demands from the Ministry of Agriculture.

Widespread support. From the top level of government to the people living nearby – everyone sees the importance of creating paved, all-weather roads, which engenders widespread support for each project.

Strong management. A dedicated Project Management Unit, led by qualified construction engineers and supported by trained staff, led to an efficient, well-managed and coordinated project.

No compromise on quality. The original road design with a double surface dressing was changed to the much longer lasting bituminous concrete. The end result was a more durable road surface, which will reduce maintenance costs in the long term