Concrete Roads: Cost-effective construction option with long term economic benefits
The aggressive push by Lafarge Africa, a global leader in cement manufacturing, for concrete as an option for roads construction in Nigeria is, demonstrably, not an attempt by the company to create or enlarge the market for its product, its officials have said
The attempt, they add, is not, by any stretch of the imagination, to discredit asphalt which is very common in this part of the world, because they see both concrete and asphalt as viable technologies that are advancing on their respective merits.
Nigeria has the largest road network in West Africa and second largest in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). The total road network in the country is estimated at between 195,000km and 198,000km. Roads are owned by the three tiers of government in the country. Approximately 18 percent is owned by the federal government, 16 percent by the state governments while 66 percent is owned by local governments. But the condition of these roads, without exception, is so terrible that only about 35 percent of the entire network is motorable.
Asphalt is traditionally used for most roads surfacing in Nigeria and that, coupled with the country’s poor maintenance culture and corruption among contractors, are reasons for the sorry state of both intra and inter-state roads in the country, all of which are dotted with portholes, ditches and gullies.
“We are not trying to say that one technology is better than the other. No, what we are saying instead is that concrete roads pavement has become a global practice and it has many advantages and more long term economic and social benefits than asphalt surfacing”, said Femi Yusuf, Head, Roads Segments at Lafarge, who spoke at the company’s quarterly press briefing on their building solutions in Lagos.
“Virtually all countries of the world have adopted concrete pavement as a viable option for roads infrastructure”, he added, explaining that this option is rigid and loads are distributed relatively over a large area. It lasts longer; it is more cost-effective and its life cycle is lower but the initial cost is higher than that of asphalt. But this cost decreases with time until it nearly becomes zero”, he added.
In Nigeria, roads infrastructure plays a very significant role in the development of her economy as it accounts for 90 percent of passenger and freight traffic. But the state of the roads is not the type that can support economic growth. Roads are terribly bad in this country and the consequences of the deplorable state of the roads are many. According to Yusuf, they have negative impact on the economy, health and productivity of workers and other road users.
On the contrary, improved condition of roads, which concrete surfacing guarantees, leads to a country’s development, wiser public allocation consumption and more efficient and dynamic roads industry which is why Lafarge is canvassing the use of concrete which has more economic benefits for the country.
Apart from being durable, concrete roads are also rigid and stresses on their sub-grade and sub-base are relatively low. Depending on the type and purpose it is meant to serve, concrete roads construction costs higher than asphalt by 10-15 percent, but the good news is that this cost will continue to drop as the life cycle of the road increases until it is almost zero.
Besides its low maintenance requirements, concrete roads also have longer lifespan of about 30 years as against asphalt’s 15 years. “The idea of concrete ensure long term durability of roads ; all concrete roads must have drains to allow rain water to find its level; concrete roads are also more environment friendly; they have good performance and resistance to rutting, abrasion and chemical attack”, Yusuf informed.
Though cement price is a bit high at the moment, Yusuf assures of its availability and, at a time when foreign exchange is a huge challenge and local enterprise needs all the support it can get to drive economic growth, concrete cement which boasts up to 80 percent local content should be the way to go for roads construction in Nigeria.
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