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Building roads to boost Tunisian economic growth




Considerable investment has been made to develop the road network in order to open up the interior and relieve traffic congestion in coastal towns.



The A1 motorway between Tunis and Sfax. Photo FD
The A1 motorway between Tunis and Sfax. Photo FD
TUNISIA. A major challenge in the quest to adjust the balance and improve access between its regions, the development of Tunisia's infrastructure is in the spotlight of international financers.

The European Investment Bank (EIB) has just signed a €150M framework loan agreement to modernize the country's roads, in particular south of Tunis, in Sfax and Nabeul, modernizing main arteries to relieve traffic congestion.

Earlier, in July, 2015, the World Bank granted a €181M loan to refurbish certain sections of the road network, the work covering 146 km along three roads in some of the least developed regions of Tunisia: the Sousse-Kairouan road from the coast to the centre of the country, Siliana to El Fahs in the north and Zaghouan to Jebel Oust, near Tunis.

In January, 2016, The Tunisian Ministry for Infrastructure published a call to tender for the building of eleven bridges across the country, for a total of €22M. The tender call was part of a much larger African Development Bank programme aimed at modernizing the continent's main road infrastructure.

Trans-Maghreb Highway as the end goal

If the infrastructure is considered vital for economic and social development of Tunisia as a whole, it is even more so for the transport sector, which represented 7.3% of GDP in 2013 according to a French Ministry of the Economy memorandum. With almost 22,000 km of roads, of which 75% are tarmacked and 400 km motorways linking the capital, road transport accounts for 85% of the overland transport of goods and 95% of passenger transport.

Many projects, often dating back to before 2011, remain on the table. They have been included in the development plan for the 2016-2020 presidency currently being finalized, a plan that intends allocating €3.5bn to road infrastructure projects, including €600M for the construction of motorways, €620M for existing roads, €360M for infrastructure in the Greater Tunis area, €330M for maintenance work and €200M for new rural unmetalled roads.

Additionally, road links to neighbouring Algeria and Libya, inadequate to allow any increase in commercial exchanges across North Africa, should be upgraded as part of the larger project to construct the Trans-Maghreb Highway. Stretching some 2500 km, the road will link the main cities in five North African countries, from Nouakchott in Mauritania to Tripoli.

The projected highway, which is due to link around fifty or so towns and cities (50 million inhabitants), is suffering from the political and economic tensions between the countries it will eventually cross.  The cost of the Tunisian section of the Trans-Maghreb Highway is evaluated at €1bn.

Version française

In partnership with EIB

 

Caroline Garcia, MARSEILLE


Thursday, February 25th 2016



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