Rolling along

Relying on a greater dose of private sector involvement (and investment), Nigeria is taking a multi-modal approach to its transport needs. Road, rail, water and air are all part of the solution.

Road congestion, long delays to unload container ships, lack of public interest in rail transport, long urban commutes – the list of headaches in Nigeria infrastructure was breath-taking in the late 90s. A policy turnaround occurred in 2000 when the National Council on Privatization recommended a greater dose of private sector involvement in transport construction and maintenance. In 2008, the Infrastructure Concession and Regulatory Commission was established, to help foster such public-private cooperations, namely public-private partnerships (PPP). In early 2010 a complete intermodal study was commissioned, to be completed by the Nigerian Institute for Transport Technology.

In 2009, the federal government voted a seven-fold jump in allocations, and has been allocating about $700 to $800 million per annum since then.

In addition to national and private funding, Nigeria is also relying on World Bank and African Development Bank funding for certain projects, namely pan-African projects such as coastal roads linking West African ECOWAS countries, for example Cameroon and Benin.

With almost 200,000 kilometers of roadways, Nigeria has the most extensive network of West Africa. Of this total, only 67% of paved roads are considered in good or fair condition, according to the World Bank. Some expressways have been the recent focus of PPP investments, where the heavy capital expenditures are not borne by the federal government, but by private financiers – at least in part.


Railways are a sad story. Nigeria used to be the rail pride of Africa. Now it has a small and neglected rail network, consisting of lines totaling 3,800 kilometers, and carrying but 2.5 million passengers in 2010 – less than the daily volume on the London Underground. Yet the government has ambitious plans, and has already lined up assistance from the Chinese infrastructure company CCECC and UK company Costain for asset improvements (rail-beds, tracks, signaling, etc.), and from General Electric for rolling stock (locomotives).

The goal is to have rail take on greater importance for inter-city passenger traffic, which is currently captured by buses and airlines. Freight transport is also an objective, although here there is competition from… the Nigerian waterways.

With 900 kilometers of coastline and 3,000 kilometers of inland waterways, Nigeria can also use its sea lanes for transport, thus decongesting roads, and potentially boosting heavy transport-using industries such as mining or the oil and gas sector. For its waterways, the Nigerian government is carrying out dredging programs, and extensive port rehabilitation or improvements.

Here the Nigerian Ports Authority is in charge. Established in 1984, NPA provides an integrated approach to port administration, with a strong focus on the country’s seven most important ports: Lagos (two ports), Port Harcourt, Onne, Warri, Calabar and Roro.

Aviation is the transport mode that enjoyed the first fruits of privatization in Nigeria. Nigeria’s 70-odd airports enjoy custom from about thirty airlines, for both passenger and cargo business. The number of passengers has grown consistently, and reached 10.2 million in 2010 (for Lagos and Abuja airports), but is still less than half of South Africa’s level (26.5 million for Johannesburg and Cape Town).

Another area of focus is urban transport projects, for example with the Lagos Metropolitan Transport Authority, serving the 25 million inhabitants of the sprawling metropolis on the lagoon. With background funding of $150 million from the World Bank, the project aims to develop a rapid bus transit system. This solution offers the advantage of fast implementation with lower capital expenditure when compared to underground rail systems. The project may also involve a light-rail (tramway) component.

There is no lack of construction contractors bidding for projects at all levels. Among the bigger players, one should mention Julius Berger, Solel Boneh/RCC, Caesar Construction, Setraco, Dantata Construction, SCC Construction, Cappa and d’Alberto, Strabag, Mother Cat Nigeria Ltd., and Hi-Tech-Lekki Expressway corridor.


World Bank study
If only we had better infrastructure…

The World Bank estimates that better infrastructure (including power) could have boosted Nigerian GDP growth by an additional 3.9% per year. Extracts from the full report.

Infrastructure made a net contribution of around 1 percentage point to Nigeria’s improved per capita growth performance in recent years. This growth came almost exclusively from the ICT revolution, while Nigeria’s power sector held the per capita growth rate back by 0.13 percentage points over the same period. Raising the country’s infrastructure endowment to that of the region’s middle-income countries could boost annual growth by around 4 percentage points.

In recent years, Nigeria has conducted several important infrastructure sector reforms. The ports sector has been converted to a landlord model, and terminal concessions now attract private investment on a scale unprecedented for Africa. A burgeoning domestic air transport sector has emerged, with strong private carriers that have rapidly attained regional significance.

But worrisome challenges persist in a number of areas, and loom the largest in the power sector. Addressing Nigeria’s infrastructure challenges will require sustained expenditure of almost $14.2 billion per year over the next decade, or about 12% of GDP. (As a point of comparison, China spent about 15% of GDP on just infrastructure investment in the mid-2000s.) About $10.5 billion is needed for federal infrastructure alone, most of it for capital spending and power.

Nigeria already spends $5.9 billion per year on federal infrastructure, equivalent to about 5% of GDP. Existing spending patterns are heavily skewed toward investment, with little provision for operations and maintenance.

With its abundant oil revenues, Nigeria is relatively well placed to raise additional public finance for infrastructure. more could also be done to leverage domestic capital markets, and there is scope to build on the comparative success of public-private partnerships. Nigeria has also attracted much interest from non- OECD financiers, notably China.

Raising Nigeria’s infrastructure to the level of the African leader, Mauritius, would boost annual per capita growth rates by 4 percentage points, according to simulations. About half of this potential impact is associated with improvements in the power sector, which would contribute as much as 2 percentage points to the per capita growth rate.

World Bank Policy Working Paper 5686 (June 2011)

Nigeria’s Infrastructure: A Continental Perspective

By Vivien Foster and Nataliya Pushak