Published on Nasikiliza

How new roads are changing lives in Madagascar

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In Madagascar, a muddy road with deep holes can paralyze cars for days. For years, the poor condition of the RN44, the main road to the Alaotra Mangoro Region, has kept citizens from getting the medical attention they need, and stunting the agricultural productivity and potential the region is known for. Stalled trucks were also the target of ambushes, making the trip as dangerous as it was arduous.

Madagascar has one of the least developed road networks in the world. Road density is only 5.4 km per 100 km2 of land, and most of its national and local roads are earth roads and in poor condition . Its Rural Accessibility Index (measured by the share of the rural population who live within 2 km of an all-season road) is 11.4 percent—among the lowest globally—which means that 17 million Malagasy rural residents are left unconnected.

Additionally, the country, and particularly its road infrastructure, is highly vulnerable to cyclones. In 2019, following the passage of Cyclone Idai and on his first foreign trip, WBG President David Malpass visited Madagascar, and discussed with the President of Madagascar and the government development priorities, where the roads and transport sector—and particularly the RN44—was identified as a key priority. In November 2019, the World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors approved the Connectivity for Rural Livelihood Improvement Project amounting to $140 million to rehabilitate 148 km and two bridges along the national roads RN44 and RN12A; and 500 km of local roads in the vicinity of both roads to ensure last mile access to nearby villages. This project will also finance setting up digital information kiosks along the main roads to provide farmers with a real time access to markets prices and demand. Put together, physical and digital connectivity will enable rural communities to sell produces timelier and at higher prices.

A 40km section of the RN44 is now completed resulting in reduced travel time between Marovoay and Vohidiala from eight hours to three hours. Farmers are already happy to see an increase in their prices now that they can easily reach Ambatondrazaka, the capital city of the region, where they can set better prices for their products. What used to cost as low as 400 ariary per kilo, can now be sold at more than three times as much. Meanwhile, the work on phase 2 of the RN44, a 73 km section, are ongoing and are expected to be completed by July 2023,  while work on the RN12A is just starting. When completed, the project is expected to benefit 600,000 people and cut the travel time from Fort-Dauphin to Vangaindrano from 24 hours to just eight hours. It is also expected to improve road access to 125 schools and 45 health centers, while also more than doubling the agricultural output of select agriculture products such as litchi.

We know that investing in transport connectivity is key to expanding rural economies and improving rural livelihoods . We can see how the lives of citizens has changed, and several studies have shown the strong linkages between improved road and transport connectivity, and economic growth and poverty alleviation.

This is why the World Bank has decided to unlock investments in the sector, which have been ramped up significantly in the past couple years: the Bank roads and transport portfolio in Madagascar now stands at $740 million, with the Connectivity for Rural Livelihood Improvement Project ($140 million) approved in FY20, the Road Sector Sustainability Project - RSSP ($200 million) approved in FY21, and the Connecting Madagascar for Inclusive Growth Project ($400 million) approved in FY22.

Furthermore, the Bank is now supporting the government develop its transport sector within a long-term multimodal vision, with a targeting of investments to the poorest and famine affected areas to provide critical lifeline access and connectivity, while also improving resilience to climate shocks. These projects are also designed with the flexibility to quickly respond to emergencies: this year, Madagascar faced four devastating storms and cyclones, affecting more than half a million people, and the Bank is currently preparing to reallocate a $100 million to support emergency infrastructure reconstruction needs in roads, bridges, electricity, and railways.


Ziad Nakat

Senior Transport Specialist

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