Home World The world's incredible 6,355-mile road that connects 10 countries and in just...

The world's incredible 6,355-mile road that connects 10 countries and in just 7 days

To speak of Africa as a single place is a misnomer. The continent is home to 54 countries that are worlds away from each other.

Each holds a distinctive ecosystem, both natural and manmade, and is filled with some of the world’s best food and drink, landscapes and nature — not to mention weather.

It’s almost impossible to fit the entire continent into one trip — and you wouldn’t want to anyway — but one behemoth of a road promises hardy travellers one of the best rides of their lives.

The Cairo to Cape Town Highway is number four on the Trans-African Highway, the longest of all the routes that straddle the entire continent from north to south.

Developed by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), the route measures a staggering 10,228 kilometres or 6,355 miles.

The majority of the highway was completed and opened for travellers in 2019, though some stretches are still being worked on.

It passes through no fewer than 10 countries and links Egypt, Sudan, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana and South Africa.

The entire Trans-Africa Highway project itself — which traverses the entire continent east to west, north to south — cost around £23.7billion, though it is unclear how much of this figure makes up the Cairo to Cape Town stretch.

Each country the road passes through is financially, technically and logistically responsible for its stretch of tarmac.

Though the most obvious benefit of the road is easier access across the continent, it is hoped that the project will help spur sustainable development and economic growth.

With this in mind, Egyptian and South African economists have urged African countries to come up with a comprehensive transportation policy to balance the economic benefits of the road against its environmental costs.

“This is one of the most important megaprojects, one that will reshape the trade and investment chart in Africa,” Abdel Mottaleb Abdel Hamid, professor of economics at the Cairo-based Sadat Academy for Management Sciences, told Al-Monitor. “It also falls in line with Egypt’s inclination toward Africa to restore its influential role on the continent as it assumes the presidency of the African Union.”

He added: “It will open the way for boosting inter-African trade, as the cost of transportation will be lower compared to maritime and air freight. In the medium and long terms, higher trade volumes among African countries will strengthen joint investments.”

A mixture of public and private investment has been fuelled into the Cairo to Cape Town stretch, with money specifically from Egypt coming in at around £8billion at the end of 2018.

Egypt now hopes its section of the road — around 1,115 kilometres or 692 miles – will be ready for use by the end of 2024.

The urgency to fully open the highway up to all nations involved is furthered with the new African Free Trade Agreement, which will merge 55 economies into a single, competitive mega market of more than a billion people, and offer frictionless trade between states.

Away from the pure economics of it, the road also offers an opportunity for those with a smidge of wanderlust to discover the continent. Megan Wilkins, writing about the route for A Small World, offers many tips for those wishing to set out on the road.

From acquiring a reliable car — with unmarked roads and dirt tracks likely to hit you along the way — to knowing what vaccinations and medications to have, it is a truly helpful guide and a must-read for anyone thinking of undertaking the journey.

Of course, travellers are warned to be cautious while journeying along the highway, especially along certain routes that may in fact be out of the question in 2024. A large stretch, for example, goes through Sudan, a country currently torn apart by civil war and one of the worst humanitarian crises in recent history. 

Travellers are advised to skip the Sudan section and begin in Ethiopia instead.

It’s impossible to say just how long the route will take when overnight stays and stop-offs are factored in, but a non-stop journey will take an estimated seven days.


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