10 major road networks connecting Africa

Lagos-Mombasa Highway features in the cross-continental marvels

In Summary

• The evolution of road networks in Africa highlights the technologies, infrastructures, and networks that have emerged

• They have facilitated the circulation and exchange of people, goods, and ideas within local communities and regions

bird story agency
bird story agency

Major road networks are not merely stretches of asphalt; but vital arteries that boost trade, connect communities and foster economic growth across the African continent. They represent a commitment to progress and the betterment of interconnectivity within Africa.

The Trans-African Highway Network is an ambitious, pan-African road network of major roads aiming to cover 56,683km by merging nine highways.

The mega project is a collaborative initiative by the African Union, the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (Uneca) in collaboration with individual countries.

The following is a selected list of 10 of the largest road networks in Africa.

1. Cairo-Dakar Highway (Trans-African Highway 1/TAH 1)

About 8,636km long, the road network begins in Cairo along the Mediterranean coast of North Africa before tracing the Atlantic coast to Dakar. Spanning seven countries, it is a vital facilitator of West-North trade on the continent.

According to Hitchwiki, most of the road is completely paved, except for the border region between Morocco and Mauritania, where it is only a track through the desert. The border between Morocco and Algeria is closed, so the TAH 1 is not usable throughout.

2. Algiers-Lagos Highway (Trans-African Highway 2/TAH 2)

Also known as the African Unity Road, it is a 4,500km road that runs from Algiers in Algeria to Lagos in Nigeria via Niger; therefore, it spans across three countries.

It is a part of the Trans-African Highway Network. Construction on the highway entered its final construction phase in February last year.

3. Tripoli-Windhoek-Cape Town Highway (Trans-Africa Highway 3/TAH 3)

This is a key part of the Trans-African Highway network, stretching over 10,000km, and is designed to connect North and Southern Africa, starting from Tripoli in Libya to Cape Town.

It spans across nine countries, including Chad, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, the Congo, the DRC, Angola and Namibia. According to Wikipedia, this route has the most missing links and requires the most new construction, as only national paved roads in Libya, Cameroon, Angola, Namibia and South Africa can be used to any extent.

4. Cairo-Gaborone-Cape Town Highway (Trans-African Highway 4/TAH 4)

This road connects Cairo, Egypt to Cape Town, South Africa, traversing the length of the continent. It follows much of the original route of the Great North Road but has a few differences.

For instance, TAH 4 passes through Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, while the original Great North Road went directly through South Sudan from Kenya.

This road will cover an estimated 10,288km, starting in Egypt then going to Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Botswana, ending in Cape Town.

5. Dakar-N’Djamena Highway (Trans-African Highway 5/TAH 5):

Also known as the Trans-Sahelian Highway, the 4,500km route starts in Dakar, Senegal, before extending to Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Nigeria, and Cameroon, ending in N’Djamena in Chad.

This makes it a vital trade corridor in the Sahel region. According to the AfDB, the network is spread as follows in the region: Senegal (801km), Mali (904km), Burkina Faso (862km), Niger (837km), and Nigeria (972km).

While most parts of the road are under construction and some need rehabilitation, a 2021 AfDB report shows close to 800km, especially in Mali, are paved and complete.

6. N’Djamena-Djibouti Highway (Trans-African Highway 6/TAH 6)

With a length of 4,219km, it crosses Chad before entering Sudan, where it cuts across the Darfur region in western Sudan and the town of Al-Fashir, the scene of the Darfur conflict, to northern Ethiopia, ending in Djibouti.

With sections of the road passing through a hazardous region, construction on sections of the road is currently halted. Therefore, while up to 85 per cent of the road is paved, according to Construct Africa, most sections of the road need rehabilitation.

7. Mauritania-Lagos Highway (Trans-African Highway 7/TAH 7):

Also known as the Trans-West African Coastal Highway, it aims to link 12 West African coastal nations, from Mauritania to Nigeria in the east, with feeder roads already existing to two landlocked countries, Mali and Burkina Faso. The AU estimates this network to be more than 4,010km long. According to, most sections of the road are nearly complete.

8. Lagos-Mombasa Highway (Trans-Africa Highway/TAH 8):

It connects Lagos, Nigeria and the Kenyan coast of Mombasa, covering 6,259km. Its course includes Cameroon (Yaoundé), from Lagos, across Bangui in the Central African Republic, and Kampala in Uganda, before settling in Mombasa, Kenya. Sections between Kenya and Uganda, most sections in the CAR, and those in Cameroon and Nigeria are complete, leaving major gaps in the DRC.

9. Beira-Lobito Highway (Trans-African Highway 9/TAH 9)

TAH 9 has a length of 3,523 km and connects Mozambique to Angola. It also cuts through the southern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Zambia and Zimbabwe, facilitating trade in the southern part of the continent.

TAH 9 traverses through five countries, with most of the sections being in Angola. Most sections of the road are complete, except for gaps in sections of the road in the DRC and Angola.

10. The Great North Road:

Also known as the Cape-to-Cairo Road or the Pan-African Highway, it starts from Cape Town in South Africa, passes through Zimbabwe, Zambia, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda and Sudan, and ends in Cairo, Egypt. The route has an estimated length of 10,228km. While the road track is in place, the travel digital magazine site reports patches limiting transportation, especially between Egypt and Northern Kenya.

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