Enhancing rural road policy: the case for the incorporation of the capabilities approach into rural road appraisal in Africa

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University of Cape Town

Infrastructure provisions, especially rural roads, have been highlighted in a number of recent studies and reports as an enabling factor for Africa to achieve 'development'. This paper reviews the current limits of rural road knowledge and appraisal procedures raising critical issues about what is actually known about the impact of rural roads and the extent to which current appraisal methods are able to fully contribute to this debate. An expanded methodology incorporating the capability approach is advocated to help overcome these issues. It is argued here that incorporation of the capability approach may help overcome certain frustrations in our ability to understand the manner in which rural roads impact upon the lives of people. The suggestion is made that the capability approach offers a different angle of analysis that could further contribute to critical questions surrounding the provision of roads, enhancing appraisal and helping to avoid the creation of further infrastructural 'white elephants' that have plagued Africa. Provision of rural roads is after all quite expensive and without a valid appraisal mechanism, money spent on some rural roads may more constructively be utilised elsewhere either on other roads, or on other sectors.