By Joe Odaby
Juba — September 9, 2013 (SSN) … Experts are pressing for opening alternate transportation routes from Nigeria to East Africa and using high-mobility all-terrain trucks in order to
overcome the absence of quality roads all over the region.
A recent Reuters report showed how much the development of East Africa, especially of the South Sudan, is hampered by the shortage of quality roads.
Every day up to 130 trucks from Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia or even farther away arrive at the customs clearing area the size of a football field in the small border town of Nimule, South Sudan’s southern gateway to Uganda.
As Reuters put it, “once a sleepy outpost built by colonial ruler Britain to mark its southernmost presence in Sudan, Nimule has become an economic lifeline for South Sudan since the world’s newest state seceded from Khartoum in 2011 following decades of civil war”.
Landlocked South Sudan depends on its oil exports flowing north to fund its state budget, and remains vulnerable to shutdowns caused by disputes over pipeline fees and border conflicts with its former enemy Sudan.
With almost no industrial production and just some 300 km (190 miles) of paved roads, the new nation depends on truck drivers to provide it with everything from diesel to beer, condoms, trousers, laptops and frozen salami.
Whenever the road is blocked, supermarkets across the country struggle to get supplies.
Cross-border traffic has, however, been on the rise since a U.S.-funded project converted the dirt track from the British era into South Sudan’s only paved road.
The economic impact was immediate. “The new Nimule road has boosted trade and also lowered the transport cost of goods,” said Kimo Adiebo, professor of economics at Juba University.
Annual inflation has fallen to less than 10 percent from over 40 percent since the road was completed last autumn.
From Juba 205 km (128 miles) north of Nimule, some goods continue their trip on bumpy roads to the rest of a nation the size of France. It takes up to a month for soft drink cans from Dubai, loaded in Mombasa, to reach the countryside.
The border is open only from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. as the road from Nimule to Juba becomes dangerous at night with frequent accidents and bandits robbing passengers.
That total dependence on the Juba-Nimule road leads experts in Juba to press their Government and the Western neighbours of South Sudan – Central African Republic, Cameroon and Nigeria – for opening alternate transportation routes from the West to East Africa.
However, building the new roads is a costly and lengthy process while South Sudan needs alternate transportation routes right now – to provide for its remote deprived regions and to integrate the country torn apart by years of civil war. Many Western and local transportation experts agree that a quick and cost-effective solution will be procurement of high-mobility all-terrain trucks. A fleet of such trucks would help South Sudan to overcome the absence of quality roads and speedily integrate with its regional neighbours.