The road to victory  

A wrestler celebrates his victory in the Senegalese traditional wrestling match
(Xinhua/Li Jing)

Development is a hard and rough but sweet path to victory for a nation. 

Since the 2000’s we’ve seen and heard african governments pledge to lead their countries into the  benefits of development, the battle against corruption being one of the core crusades promised. Along came also the reducing of poverty, zero hunger, good and affordable healthcare and well being,quality education, industry innovation and infrastructure, sustainable cities and communities. The french-speaking countries on the continent called it ’emergence’ which can be translated into ‘the  take-off’, Ghana of course being among the countries having goals of sustainable development. One particular tool to pretend achieving those goals are roads, well engineered and long-lasting  (abrotchre-like), stretches of pure driving pleasure and safety. 

Roads are the arteries through which the economy pulses. Indeed ,they make a crucial contribution to  economic development and growth and bring important social benefits by linking producers to markets, workers to jobs, students to school, and the sick to hospitals. 

Thus roads are of vital importance in order to make a nation grow and develop. For instance, the european road network consists of 5.5 million km with an estimated value of over  8000 billion euros. A country like Belgium(30689sq km) has a road network of 118414km. Constructing quality roads is crucial however maintaining road infrastructure is as essential to  preserve and enhance those benefits, and optimizing safety for the road network. 

With this in mind, the importance of roads and their maintenance needs to be recognized by  decision-makers. 

According to the Ministry of Roads and Highways (MRH), as of 2018, Ghana’s road transport  infrastructure is made up of 78401 km of road network linking the entire country(of which 18% of  trunk roads,19% of urban roads and 63% of feeder roads). By comparison, Cote d’ Ivoire network is up  of 85000 km. Both Ghana(238535sq km) and Cote d’Ivoire(322463 sq km) being the leading countries in west Africa, the neighboring countries have a poor network in comparison except from much larger  countries Nigeria(200000km) and South Africa(750000km). 

Ghana doesn’t make the top 10 of african countries with quality roads, top countries being Namibia,  South Africa, Rwanda, Cote d’Ivoire, Morocco,etc… 

I’ve been traveling up and down from Accra to Cape Coast, Accra to Lome and I have to admit that the  national highway network is well built and in good shape overall. 

But what caught my attention in a quite shocking way was Accra’s capital suburb roads(or the absence of it inside neighborhoods). 

When you take the Adenta road up to Dodowa, you’d be surprised as to how poor maintained the road  is. 

There was a long period in which the stretch from Hotel Junction to Prison Junction was uneven and  rough, leaving the multiple potholes only for the eyes to see. Of course, the users couldn’t fathom how  slow the response from the authorities was even for a main road like this used by high government  officials. This obviously resulted in hours of gridlocks, headaches(yes,physical ones) and sore bodies. Because one thing is to build a road, another to do it according to international standards. The same stretch was ‘repaired’ but not even 6 months later, the potholes resurfaced again. Take the road from UPS Junction to East Legon where most of the embassies are located.

And the list goes on and on and on… 

So my question all along is the following: ‘What is the usefulness of such an endeavor? It seems like a rather blatant waste of taxpayer’s money… 

Instead of building long lasting and quality certified roads(which I’m sure there are budgets for), some  gravel is poured with a thin layer of asphalt and called even…and built again 6 months later…. What would be more cost-effective? A road 10 times rebuilt over 5 years or a road lasting 7  years(which is the minimum in Abrotchre). 

Whilst urban roads in developed countries are engineered as followed:(subbase course,base course  and surface course): 

The thickness of subbase course( manufactured aggregate, crushed rock, lean concrete)vary from 6 to 9 inches for heavy used roads and even more for highways. 

The thickness of base course(construction aggregate being sand,gravel,crushed stone) vary from 4 to 6 inches 

The thickness of surface course(high dense bitumen or asphalt) vary from 6-12 inches. We would be looking at minimum 16 inches layers for a correct urban road and 27 inches for highways. 

I’ve seen barely the asphalt thickness reaching 2 inches(sometimes even less if you could imagine…) on suburbs urban roads and inside the neighborhoods, which you can assume rain would destroy fast and it does… 

You take Oyibi Junction as the next example and you come up with the same conclusion: the urban  roads construction is sloppy at best, their maintenance non existent. 

But apart of the suffering the users encounter(by being late to work and covered with bruises), the  blatant victims of this painful journey are the vehicles. 

Good business for our friends the fitters:shocks destroyed, tyres in need of a change every 3 months. As a transport business manager, I should know… 

¾ of my sales are swallowed by fitters. In an ideal environment, this business could and should be  lucrative, but it turns out to be a hustle. And why is that? Ask those in the business… Many questions I need an answer to among which for example: 

-What is precisely the role of the toll booths? 

One would assume money is collected through them to help finance the road maintenance. At any rate  that’s how the system works in developed countries. 

As a matter of fact the information is once again public. The government of Ghana deploys human  manned toll system as one of the means of funding the Ghana road fund. It is estimated that Ghana has about 35 toll booths nationwide and collects approximately 1 million Cedis daily.  But are the roads being built/maintained properly? That’s for the users to decide…  

Building roads and maintaining them are 2 different tasks. Who does what? 

-Who is in charge of building street roads in neighborhoods?Cause I’ve been in lot of them: there are  non existent for the most part or at best in a bad shape in the suburbs. For those living in Accra, Foster,  Pantang, Barrier would be the examples of choice. Those areas are impassable after heavy rain falls. Is the Ministry of Roads in charge or the municipalities? 

Who gives orders to who? 

Cause clearly somebody isn’t doing their job. 

The answers to those questions are public: 

 Roads in Ghana form a network of varied quality and capacity. 

Responsibility for the road network differs between trunk(an Important main road used for long distance travel) and non-trunk routes. 

Trunk roads, which are the most important roads, are administered by the Ghana Highway Authority, 

which was established in 1974 to develop the trunk road network. 

The department of Feeder roads (a road which runs parallel with high-speed roads, allowing easier  access to local amenities) is responsible for the construction and maintenance of feeder roads in Ghana, while responsibility for urban roads lies with the department of Urban roads,which is part of the Accra  Metropolitan assembly or any other metropolitan assembly for that matter. 

The Urban roads department collects data for planning and development of road infrastructure in the  district, prepares progress and annual reports on road works as well as provide inputs into the  preparation of budget for road maintenance activities. 

It also monitors to ensure that funds from road fund and other sources are used for the  designated roads in line with approved standards. 

The Urban road department is well-oiled in theory(looks nice on the paper) but the reality is way  different. 

Campaign promises and reality should be homogenic and Ghanaians should be happy and energetic  when they arrive at work not completely bruised and on the nerves. 

Why should the suburbs be depraved of quality roads whilst most of Accra’s workforce live in them? It is no secret that rush hours are excruciatingly painful for road users. 

It is expected that the population growth and increasing rate of car ownership will increase the number  of cars in the Accra Metropolitan Area from 181000 in 2004 to over 1 million in 2023.This is likely to  aggravate the already chronic traffic congestion in the cities. 

Try to reach Accra from the suburbs around 7am… A 2-lane road is fastly converted into a 4 lane one  with chaos and agressivity that ensues. Dodowa-Adenta road becomes more and more narrow by the  day. 

And what happens when the congestion is too much?People take alternative routes into the  neighbourhoods which roads are bumpy and dusty and nerve-racking. 

Creating new quality and sustainable well-lit routes enabling decongestion should be the paramount  goal of the different road departments inside big cities. 

Cause another problem pertaining to the roads safety is the poor visibility on them. There is no fluorescent marks on the surface to guide the drivers, and the roadside lighting is absent. You can manage to survive those hefty conditions under good weather but what about on a dark and  rainy road where water is gushing from everywhere? 

The heavy- traffic road leading Lapaz to Kokrobite Junction is one example of poor lighting. The Madina to Adenta-Ashiyie stretch is another journey into darkness at night. Lets not forget that well-lit roads are the sine qua non requisite(technically a redundancy but we would  like to empower and emphasize our point) for perfect driving safety and most importantly are a major  deterrent to crime. 

This is a long road to well-being and safety for the population who deserve to be lead into development cause this is the 21st century, the dark ages are long behind us and a brighter future should be at  everybody’s grasp. 

Ghana is a rich country, the road network should be the window to its glory and modernity. Cause campaigning to lead it is one thing, politicians promises come and go but a wise leader is the  one who enables his citizens to feel pride by creating a clean,modern and sustainable environment  enabling the population to live happy and content which as it is is a virtuous cycle cause happy people  are better workers and better workers is a richer and more competitive country.  So lets roll up our sleeves and give what the people deserve for so long. 

And sooner the better.

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