Communities and households in northern Ghana are enjoying the benefits of better road conditions, increased local economic activity, and better access to health and education, thanks to a road project funded by the African Development Bank.
The findings were made in an impact evaluation conducted by Independent Development Evaluation (IDEV) at the African Development Bank, four years after the Bank supported the flagship Fufulso-Sawla Road Project, which was completed in 2015, financed with a $156 million grant from the African Development Fund.
In addition to building a 147.5 km road along a transit corridor linking Ghana’s Tema Port to landlocked Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso, the project provided other infrastructure such as health centers, schools, markets, and water and sanitation facilities, which have improved livelihoods in the area. This approach provided an integrated response to the needs of the beneficiary districts, with an estimated population of 30,000 in the immediate road vicinity.
The evaluation compared the beneficiaries of the project with a control group who did not receive the intervention, and examined several measures to determine the impact of the road on poverty and economic development. It found that the project achieved the desired effects: a 2.16% decrease in the Multidimensional Poverty Index among beneficiary households in 2015, and a 2.59% decrease in 2019 when the evaluation took place. Monthly household income increased by around $68.
Other notable results include a 33% decrease in commuting time (120 minutes per month), improved market conditions, market integration, and market diversification (a 14%, 7%, and 2.2% increase, respectively), as well as a 17% increase in the water quality index, and 14% improvement in the sanitation conditions index among beneficiary households in 2019. This led to positive health and education outcomes, with women and girls benefitting considerably from this impact.
At the same time, the evaluation found that the project’s benefits were highly unlikely to be sustained. Interviews with beneficiaries revealed that poor maintenance affected many of the facilities provided, especially health centers, schools, bungalows built for teachers and nurses, and the water treatment plant. Part of the road had also degraded, reducing the impact of the project. Finally, the project negatively affected the environment due to marked growth in charcoal-burning activities in the three beneficiary districts.
Evaluations such as the one carried out by IDEV also produce lessons and provide recommendations that can in future guide similar infrastructure projects, especially in the use of an integrated approach to maximize development impact.
The report recommends that, to sustain the benefits, the beneficiaries should be active participants and not simply information recipients. For example, in the case of the Fufulso-Sawla Road project, participation could have taken the form of collaboration in maintaining the road and its adjacent facilities.
Among the recommendations by IDEV in the report is strengthening the human and institutional capacity to sustain development gains in similar projects. Investing in transport infrastructure is one of the key priorities of the Bank and is critical to achieving sustainable economic growth and reducing poverty. By proactively adopting community development projects in road projects similar to the Fufulso-Sawla Road through strong project design and a focus on results, a significant difference in the reduction of multidimensional poverty and inclusive development can be achieved.
Independent Development Evaluation (IDEV) at the African Development Bank conducts independent evaluations of Bank operations, policies and strategies, working across projects, sectors, themes, regions, and countries. By conducting independent evaluations and proactively sharing best practices, IDEV ensures that the Bank and its stakeholders learn from experience and plan and deliver development activities to the highest possible standards.