EU chided for poor road construction in Africa

A road construction in Benin funded by the European Union. Photo by: G. Barton / EU

European Union auditors have urged the regional bloc to better manage its infrastructure development projects after finding that roads in several sub-Saharan countries weren’t built to last.

The European Court of Auditors on Jan. 15 recommended that “in a number of respects,” European Development Fund resources could be better focused and the regional bloc should engage more vigorously in a “policy dialogue with the partner countries’ governments” and make ”better use of conditions attached to its” programs to maximise the effectiveness of its road network projects in sub-Saharan Africa.

“The aid-recipient countries visited by the Court do not do enough to ensure the sustainability of road infrastructure,” the auditors said in a statement. “In all partner countries visited by the Court, roads are affected to varying degrees by premature deterioration. Most of these countries have adopted institutional reforms, notably entailing the creation of road funds and road agencies, and made significant progress on road maintenance. However, many challenges remain to be addressed in all of them to ensure appropriate maintenance.”

The EU has been one of sub-Saharan Africa’s top infrastructure donors - although its investments lag considerably behind those of China, the continent’s leading foreign investor in that realm. A total of 7.4 billion euros ($9.8 billion) from the European Development Fund was spent to build modern roads and highways between 1995 and 2011, according to EurActiv. Auditors inspected 48 EU-funded projects in Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Tanzania and Zambia and covered some 2,400 kilometers of highways, the publication added.

The audit comes on the heels of fierce EU budget negotiations that ended with generous funding for external affairs, including development cooperation.

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About the author

  • Louie-An Pilapil

    Louie-An is a former senior development analyst at Devex Manila. She has held consulting and editorial positions at the Asian Development Bank in Manila and a business-to-business media company in Hong Kong and mainland China.