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Roads play a crucial role in the transportation of goods across southern Africa

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The N1 is an important road link in South Africa. Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

16 August 2021 – The recent unrest in South Africa destabilised supply chains in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng. This event is a stark reminder of the crucial role of road networks in the transportation of goods across southern Africa.

According to Solly Kganyago, Bakwena Platinum Corridor Concessionaire’s COO, South Africa could face a socio-economic “heart attack” without the vital road arteries to seamlessly move food and other basic supplies.

The efficiency and speed in which the authorities managed to restore calm and reopen the critical trade corridors are commendable, although road infrastructure incurred significant damage.

“This quick recovery facilitated the conveyance of essential goods and services using the road network. It speaks not only to the reliability and proficiency of the stakeholders responsible for maintaining the high standard of the roads but also to the role these roads play in keeping our economic heart pumping,” says Kganyago.

According to Statistics South Africa, and estimates from the rating agency S&P, the total cost of the unrest up to now is about R50-billion.

According to the Road Freight Association South Africa’s GDP may take a further knock as cargo owners and customers choose to move cargo through neighbouring countries rather than using South Africa’s road network.

The Bakwena Platinum Corridor manages 90 kilometres of the N1 running from Pretoria north to Bela-Bela and a 295-kilometre section of the N4 from Pretoria westwards, through Rustenburg and Zeerust, to the Botswana border.

These routes are responsible for transporting goods from South Africa to the Southern African Development Community region including Botswana, Namibia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe, making them fundamental paths in sustaining the economy of southern Africa.

According to the latest Ctrack Freight Transport Index more than 150 million tons of cargo was transported by road between January and March 2021, compared to just 40 million moved by rail.

Road Freight Association CEO, Gavin Kelly says that based on the major role that roads play in upholding the economy, roads should receive the same status as national key points.

“Roads are vital for the continued roll-out of the vaccination programme and to ensure food security. “Government needs to protect the logistical routes and all the vital links to move food and supplies around the country and keep the economy going,” says Kelly.

Roads also play an unquantifiable role in the social cohesion and inclusion of communities that would otherwise be excluded from participating in the general economy due to their respective geographies. This vast transportation network also connects rural and urban neighbourhoods, allowing them access to services such as health, social grants and education facilities that may lie outside of the reach of their immediate communities.

“Considering the immense contribution that roads make towards the development and growth of the country and its citizens, their maintenance must, therefore, be a top priority for the public and private sectors,” says Kganyago.

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