Liberia – Long-Suffering Roads

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Stalled projects and outdated infrastructure are affecting commerce and increasing the risk of accidents.

In post-war Liberia, there are only 12 traffic lights, installed in 2013 as a gift from the Chinese – and the majority are no longer functioning, according to Front Page Africa.

An investigation by the newspaper found that the engineers who installed the solar-powered lights did not train Liberians to maintain them, and the technology is obsolete, meaning spare parts are unavailable.

Sources within the Ministry of Public Works told Front Page Africa that the old lights would soon be repaired and new ones installed in major areas, to include pedestrian lights, but could not say how soon the works would begin.

Despite police conducting traffic, it is usually survival of the fittest at intersections when there is no officer. Traffic jams are common and pedestrians, including schoolchildren, leave their fate at the mercy of drivers.

According to a World Health Organization (WHO) report, the number of road traffic injuries and deaths in Africa has been increasing over the last three decades, especially in countries with poor driving conditions and weak safety laws and enforcement.

The African region had the highest rate of fatalities from road traffic injuries worldwide at 26.6 per 100,000 population for the year 2013.

Drivers plying the Gbarnga-Lofa highway between the two northeastern counties have attributed the acute shortage of foodstuffs on local markets to the terrible condition of the road, said Liberia’s The News.

As a result, commercial drivers and motorbike riders have doubled fares for the distance from Gbarnga to Zorzor from L$800 to L$1,600, while Gbarnga to Voinjama fares have been hiked from L$1,800 to L$2,200.

“Lofa County should have been better improved given its cultural importance in the country in food production, but due to bad roads it is not possible,” one passenger said on August 17th.

Most farmers are unable to transport their produce to markets in big towns like Gbarnga or Monrovia due to the bad road, causing them to lose money, the farmers complained.

There are times during the rainy season when some roads are completely cut off, said James Yarkpawolo, a commercial taxi driver.

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Road from Monrovia to Lofa, in the dry season – CC 2005

Several drivers and passengers interviewed said in the government’s effort to support economic growth, it should focus on upgrading strategic roads across the country in order to connect major counties and towns to the capital.

During her visit to Bong County in June, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf said government would begin paving the road from Gbarnga to Salayea in Lofa County during the next dry season.

As Liberians prepare to head to the polls in October, citizens in the northern Bong County told Front Page Africa on August 30th that besides education and jobs they are concerned about the bad roads, which they say are hindering commerce and agriculture.

In late August, three vehicles carrying marketers from Zoweinta town and other districts to the Ivorian border were stuck in a pool of water in the town of Kpaii for three days and goods were lost.

Kpaii is one of the 13 districts targeted for road improvement when the county agreed in 2011 to spend $662,000 to buy three road-building machines.

However, the projects were stalled when two machines purchased broke down, and the contractor is holding up the third because he claims the county owes him US$28,000.

Ma Konah, an undecided voter, said she will vote for someone who is committed to improving the rural roads, so that she can operate her business smoothly.

Chairman of the National Elections Commission (NEC), Jerome Korkoya, on August 23rd said that the NEC was considering the services of helicopters to airlift sensitive elections materials mainly in the south-eastern regions due to bad roads, according to The News.

In previous elections, the United Nations (UN) mission in Liberia (UNMIL) has provided helicopters for that purpose for hard-to-reach areas in the country, he said.

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin:

ECOWAS – Election Commission Network Meeting
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 54, Issue 7, pp. 21493C

World Bank Agreements
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol. 54, Issue 6, pp. 21748A–21748C

ROADS AND RAILWAYS: Kenya
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol. 54, Issue 5, pp. 21724

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