The Trans-Africa Highway Masterplan: Of Masters, Plans and Master Narratives

James Clacherty
Highway Africa Research Studio Paper, 2018

‘The Trans-Africa Highway Masterplan’ is a grand title. Full of promise. Seductive in its suggestion of scale and power. I should point out at the outset that the Trans-African Highway (TAH) is not primarily—if at all—a road network. Although there are roads and many kilometres of highway that correspond to the routes marked out in the TAH master- plan, many of them were built independently of the masterplan and have had a fluid, ambiguous relationship with the masterplan over time. The TAH exists primarily as an idea, a masterplan and a set of beleaguered institutions. In spite of this, the TAH masterplan has en- dured for decades in discussions and plans for transport infrastructure in Africa. In what follows I will offer a brief historical background to the TAH, explore how we might understand it and then reflect on how we can make sense of the stories that the TAH masterplan tells about itself.

PDF download (0.66 MB)