Friday, 27 November 2015

In For The Long Haul

And you thought that the commuter traffic was bad around your journey? Well think again.

The drivers on the East African highway between Mombasa and Nairobi, have recently been experiencing a traffic jam reportedly stretching for 50km (30 miles) following heavy rains which washed the road away. The road, which is very heavily used, is the main transit for passengers and goods from and to the port of Mombasa (East Africa's main port for the regions economies such as Kenya, Uganda, Somalia, South Sudan and Rwanda).

East African Highway ... Barely More Than A Tarmac Track

It hard to conceive of a traffic congestion queue, that's as long as the average inter-city journey in the UK, but there you are. As you may have guessed, the road network in East Africa is at best poor, and at worst terrible, as the usual African curse of complete corruption means that little, if any, road maintenance gets done until the road becomes totally impassable, (at which point, someone higher up the corruption chain, and whose own line of corruption is now impacted ~ such as whomever is skimming from the customs taxes ~ starts kicking off), and a quick and dirty repair is undertaken (just enough to skim over the worst spots), and the road reopens for a month or so.

In many ways this is Africa's problems in a nutshell.

Corruption, Short-termism, Self Interest, and an inability to work together.

That road is vital for several nations economies, and yet instead of forming something like a 'Trans Mombasa East African Road Authority' in which all the local interests ensure that the road is fully maintained and developed (e.g. spur roads to other vital hotspots), they each just do a little on the stretch of the road traversing their territories. In some cases (such as Somalia), they actually rely entirely on others to fix the road network and try to glean benefits from others investment.

If ever a continent was wasted by its peoples, its Africa .... imagine if the Chinese owned its resources ..... Oh hang on they do.


  1. I experienced what you describe whilst working in Cameroon; many roads had never seen tarmac and were all badly maintained. The police spent their time stopping motorists to find an excuse to 'fine' them with no paperwork to be seen. I was so guarded against corruption that I treated everyone with suspicion even though the ordinary citizen didn't deserve it, making them double victims of the system.

    1. I to worked in Africa, but in the oil industry in Nigeria. It was called Kola, Egunje, or Dash depending on where you were. The police were only one of a number of applicants for bounty from me. Its a part of life and with officials only on say $3000 pa they were expected to supplement their incomes by bribes or even extortion.

    2. I can't match your experiences. I know someone who lives in Gambia and has to pay a lot of bribes. My visit to South Africa passed off without the Bakeesh issues. Thanks for both your comments. Like the name touch as well Mr Ardoil LOL.


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