Ethiopia forging road links with Kenya, Sudan – ADDIS ABABA (Reuters)

April 1st, 2009 Print Print Email Email

Landlocked Ethiopia is forging better road links with its neighbours Sudan and Kenya to ease dependence on the Red Sea port of Djibouti, a government official said on Wednesday.

“The road linkage with Kenya and Sudan would help landlocked Ethiopia export and import goods through Mombassa and Port Sudan ports at relatively less cost than Djibouti,” said Samson Wondimu, head of public relations at the Ethiopian Road Authority (ERA).

Ethiopia had to pay an extra $22 million in 2008 on top of the $700 million it pays annually in port fees to Djibouti. The Red Sea port has served as Ethiopia’s main sea gateway since it lost Assab and Massawa when Eritrea won independence.

Ethiopian businessmen have appealed to the government to seek alternative, cheaper routes through which they can export and import goods, according to the Addis Ababa Chamber of Commerce and Sectoral Association.

Samson said Ethiopia had completed preliminary study to asphalt the 310 kms (194 miles) road linking Hager-Mariam with Moyale, the border town with Kenya to the south.

The African Development Bank (AfDB) has reacted positively to Ethiopia’s $100 million loan request to upgrade the highway to Kenya, Samson said.

The road south from Moyale, however, is unsurfaced for more than 500 kms until it reaches the Kenyan town of Isiola and is one of the worst highways in the country. The government has recently begun improving a stretch north of Isiola.

Ethiopia has already built a modern 880 kms highway linking the capital with the town of Metema on the northern border with Sudan, he said. This provides an outlet via Port Sudan.

“This highway serves for the export of Ethiopia’s oil seeds and for the import of fuel,” he said.

Samson said Ethiopia has also completed construction of a highway linking Somaliland’s port of Berbera with eastern Ethiopia. Berbera port is being used for the import of food aid as well as other imported goods.

The nation’s roads have suffered decades of neglect but the government has said the network’s expansion is a top priority, Crumbling or overloaded infrastructure is seen as an obstacle to economic development in many African countries.

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