Published on Africa Can End Poverty

(Not) On the Move: Road Transport in Tanzania

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Let's think together: Every Sunday the World Bank in Tanzania in collaboration with The Citizen wants to stimulate your thinking by sharing data from recent official surveys in Tanzania and ask you a few questions.
Easy access to markets, public services, and jobs is indispensable for citizens to take advantage of economic opportunities and achieve progress. In Tanzania, as in most other countries in the region, roads are the predominant mode of transport for people and goods. However, insufficient transportation facilities and limited mobility are an everyday reality:
- In 2010, only 1.8 per cent of Tanzanian households owned a car; significantly less than in Kenya (5.6 per cent in 2008/09) or Uganda (3.2 per cent in 2011).
- Motorbike ownership is also not common – only 2.9 per cent of households on Mainland claimed ownership of this vehicle in 2010. The situation in Zanzibar though was different with one in ten households owning a motorcycle or scooter.
- Affordable public transport remains elusive for many Tanzanians: In 2010, more than 40 per cent of women who recently gave birth at home cited distance and lack of transport as the factors that prevented them from delivering at a health facility.

The absence of motorized transportation and the resulting isolation is more typical of rural areas, where public facilities remain few and far between:
- Only 0.6 per cent of rural households in 2010 reported owning a car while 2.3 per cent claimed motorbike ownership.
- More than 40 percent of rural households are at least four km from a health facility (2010).  Only nine per cent of these families use public or private motorized transport when in need for health care, while others walk (58 per cent) or rely on bicycles (33 per cent).
- Only 16 percent of farmers who transport some of their crops for sale use motorized transport (2010/11). Eighteen per cent use animal transport and a staggering 68 per cent transport their produce by foot or by bicycle.

On the other hand, urban households can chose from a wider variety of transport options though private cars remain scarce with only 5.4 percent of households claiming such ownership. The rising urban population and economic growth also put significant pressure on the existing infrastructure, resulting in delays and congestions especially in large cities:
- Case studies at Dar es Salaam’s Ubungo bus terminal show that the average travel time for journeys of mostly below 15 km exceeds 90 minutes. This calculation is for one-way, including waiting time, and is equivalent to travel speeds of 10-12 km/h during peak hours.
- Approximately 160,000 children in Dar es Salaam go to school by bus each day, with an average commute lasting more than 1.5 hours for the round-trip in 2010/11. This is about twice as long as in other urban areas.

All of this raises the following questions:
- How can traffic congestion be reduced in urban areas? Through more inner-city roads? Quality bus services? Commuter trains? Ring roads?
- What can be done to improve accessibility for rural areas? Should communities be more engaged in road maintenance and construction?
- What is the appropriate investment balance between urban and rural transportation infrastructure?
- Besides roads, what other transport infrastructure should receive priority? Railways? Air transport? Ports? Waterways?

Note: Ubungo commuter times are cited in the Second Central Transport Corridor Project’s Appraisal Document (World Bank 2008). Other statistics are based on Demographic and Health Surveys for Tanzania (2010), Uganda (2011) and Kenya (2008/09), and the 2010/11 Tanzania National Panel Survey. All are publicly available.



Jacques Morisset

Lead Economist and Program Leader, World Bank

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