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Highways to Success or Bypass to Waste: Estimating the Economic Benefits of Roads in Africa

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This study develops and tests new approaches to the planning of infrastructure to maximize benefits and minimize negative externalities, particularly in rural areas. It explores several questions related to the impacts of infrastructure on welfare and poverty that are especially relevant for Sub-Saharan Africa. Reducing poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa — currently the poorest region in the world despite its widely acknowledged enormous potential for growth — is the world’s supreme development challenge. A key element is to enhance living conditions in rural areas, and this report argues that with caveats and qualifications — improved transport linkages can make a significant contribution, and demonstrates a methodology for determining the magnitude and location of those benefits. To set the stage the report explains why there is good reason to believe that the prospects are bright for setting the agricultural sector in Africa on a high-growth trajectory, given proper conditions. This report seeks to demonstrate that local conditions matter considerably, and the presence or absence of conflict, environmental externalities, and local production potential are the focus of this investigation. Data and econometric issues pose formidable challenges to this effort. The introduction concludes with a short description of each of the subsequent chapters. In brief, chapters two and three examine the positive benefits of road investment on various measures of welfare, and chapters four and five look at the negative aspects.


Ali, Rubaba; Barra, A. Federico; Berg, Claudia; Damania, Richard; Nash, John; Russ, Jason. 2015. Highways to Success or Byways to Waste : Estimating the Economic Benefits of Roads in Africa. Africa Development Forum. Washington, DC: World Bank; and Agence Française de Développement. © World Bank. License: CC BY 3.0 IGO.


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