#Madagascar : Riding the RN 9

Madagascar is often praised for its outstanding biodiversity, and in this respect, the Southwestern part of the country is particularly blessed. As a matter of fact, the South of Madagascar is the leading destination for foreign tourists who come to visit the Red Island. That really does not come as a surprise, with sites as great as the Tsingy of Bemaraha, the Isalo Massif, the white-sand beaches of Anakao, the Ifaty and Mangily resorts, or the baobab forest of Reniala, all gathered in this area. What’s more, the Morombe area, North of Toliara, was also known to be one of the worldwide leading suppliers for Cape peas, a couple of decades back.

What the Southwestern part of Madagascar lacks is a stout road network. The RN 7 (National Road 7, Antananarivo-Toliara) aside, the sole major trunk road in the area is the RN 9 (National Road 9). The latter was originally meant to connect the two main regional hubs in this part of the Island, namely Toliara and Morondava (the RN 9 goes from Toliara to Dabara where it crosses the RN 35 to Morondava). To this day however, the RN 9 is for the most part a sandy road in poor condition. Such being the case, the Northern part is virtually impracticable during rainy seasons, which could last up to 5 months in a regular year. The dryer Southern part of the road is in a slightly better condition, but do not expect anything but a rough ride on these roads.

The road was constructed before the country’s independence in 1960, and the maintenance works were rather scarce and shoddy since. The sandy surface of the road is by nature vulnerable to rain, and the lack of sufficient dewatering structures further impairs its durability. Moreover, the heavy trucks that are being used to transport people and goods do not help preventing its deterioration, although anything short of all-terrain vehicles and trucks will not hold up on these roads.

A project to tar the RN 9 has been on the table for many years now. The project was actually a part of the major infrastructures development program, under the framework of the Madagascar Action Plan (MAP, 2006-2012). The African Development Bank (AfDB), which had carried out the latest preliminary works for that project, stated that it had found potential partners to help fund the project. Unfortunately, the MAP has been put on hold because of the political putsch of 2009 and it is not known whether the AfDB will go through with the project at this stage.

A tarred road will certainly help the Atsimo Andrefana Region to reach its full potential, be it from a tourism development perspective or from a production one.

Johary Razafindratsita


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