Elias Mhegera, Beijing – In a quick revisit to the challenges on road safety in Tanzania one can draw a special attention in the end of March 2013 during the debate at the British Council that was organized the by the Policy Forum an umbrella body of Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs).
It was established during the presentation by a medical doctor Omary Ubuguyo, when he said that apart from alcoholism and drug abuse another major cause of accidents is the fact that a good number of drivers are incompetent to drive motor vehicles on medical grounds.
He expanded that some are psychotic naturally; a mental illness which can incapacitate one to think and behave rationally, while others are epileptic and they can undergo convulsions any time, to those with minor confused thinking perceptions due to a number of reasons including matrimonial conflicts.
As of 2013 researches by an NGO, Amend.Org proved that 3.4 percent of Tanzanians die in road accidents in a year, 75 percent of those stems from reckless driving, but this is just one side of the story on road accidents, the other being weaknesses of the road infrastructure itself due to over congestion.
An expert engineer Mr. Charles Kisunga, head of transport, safety and environmental studies at the National Institute of Transport (NIT), says preferred standard widths of 2 lane highway vehicle lanes is 9 to 15 feet (2.7. to 4.6m), however for over congested roads infrastructure it should not be less than 6m.
On the other hand, experts in the transportation industry during the Yuwi, China-Africa Think Tank Forum revealed other challenges are lack of ethical consideration when granting tenders to construction companies.
They counsel that infrastructure has far consequences in the development of one country, but also even to its immediate surrounding neighbours.
They cite the following components as being vital for the road safety and transportation industry in general. The network must be seen as an intersection of each other, for instance railways and roads are immediately related and interdependent.
In other words, if there is a poor railways system the repercussions will be immediately felt in the road infrastructure mainly through over-congestion. Hence if the railways are completely dilapidated and road infrastructure has narrow passage then the rate of road accidents surge on correspondingly.
The chain of transportation networks rely upon government support and a well functioning logistical supply and transportation framework. Thereafter follows the role of drivers who must be well trained and equipped with technical experience.
Drivers must be assured of disserving welfare, micro-sleep when they travel long distances, and regular medical check-up of their mental health, but also their rate of blood alcohol content absorption. But for new drivers should be well versed with the Road Distance Calculator (RDC) technology which can give them driving directions and maps.
But at the Yiwu’s Forum, construction of infrastructure was given even more impetus for discussions and experts contributions. This was after a presentation by Prof. Xiao Yuhua which paved for African representatives to express challenges that they are facing back home in their countries.
This reporter was amongst the two who gave their testimonies of the happenings in Africa. Generally, problems in Africa stems from the fact that the transportation network is not connected, and prone for destabilization easily in the case of minor occurrences of disturbances from the natural hazards like climate change and even minor land shakes.
The don expressed that through his research studies not less than USD 90 billion is needed for addressing the Africa’s infrastructure deficit. To a large extent lack of reliable railways systems and expressways lead to even income generation gaps.
“In essence if Africa as a continent wants to be in the world competitive economy it must strive first to enact modern infrastructure otherwise it will remain in the defensive,” commented the don.
He addressed the shortcomings being lack of coordinated framework of communication from roads, railways, expressways, power generation, industrial park, and long-term urbanization plans. He challenges that there can be no development without electrification of the railway system, reliable national transportation master plans and land compensation plan, for that matter.
He called for establishment of backbone infrastructure which reflects the country’s logistical systems, and that these must be accompanied with effective and efficient feeder roads.
He critiqued that through his researches on challenges facing the African continent in the infrastructure sector, weaknesses can be traced in political systems themselves. For instance, decisions of where to place the logistical corridor and channels at times lead to conflicts due to lack of transparency and a unified focus.
“Even some of the compensation plans are never based on ethical consideration but by seeing the short-term national economy outlook. At times the short term interests override the long-term ones hence the whole project is doomed to failure once serious demands erupts,” he cautions.
He suggests that the main infrastructure should have the following aspects; it must integrate people, it must be responsive to the geopolitics of the surrounding areas, it must create diversity, it must involve all the stake holders from the central, to local or municipal governments downward to ordinary users, the citizenry at large.
He elaborates further that in any construction of the road especially the backbone infrastructure there must be enough transparency as to who is a contracting engineer and why? Who owns the technical documents and why? It must elaborate the design of industrial parks, and the basic communication systems.
But also this must reflect the commercial end; it must abide to the legal system and framework of the day, and avoid any kind of opaqueness, trickery and corruption.
Apart from these teams of road scientists, there must be availability of trusts funds for immediate intervention, but also for insurance purposes in cases of emergencies and accidents. The quality of the road must be maintained from the beginning up to the last point.
There must be special agreements on restricted loads, for instance how to ferry breakdown machinery, and construction equipment for the sake of maintaining road safety.
In order to cover the ‘infrastructure gap’ which anyway must be adequately abridged, there is a requirement for much greater involvement of the private sector in the design and delivery of these assets.
With government finances increasingly constrained, but also due to various competing claims, challenges are only likely to multiply if the private sector is sidelined in decision making, tapping the financial resources, and the bank of broader experience as well as expertise.