Designing Feasible National Transport Masterplans, why they fail and how to make them succeed

Designing Feasible National Transport Masterplans, why they fail and how to make them succeed


Numerous Master Plans developed in Sub Saharan Africa since colonial times. Most of these Master Plans partially implemented. Sub Saharan Africa has many failed plans not because of lack of skills of its people but rather lack of confidence by those supposed to implement them. 

Uganda has the National Transport Master Plan (NTMP) and the Greater Kampala. Metropolitan Area (GKMA) Transport Master PlanBoth have been revised and updated severally with minuscule successesCOWI, a UK Consultancy firm was contracted by government in 2019 to develop Uganda’s Master Plan (2021-2040)

Kenya has the National Transport Master Plan (NATMAP). NATMAP envisions long term dynamic transportation framework with recommendations on investment priorities bearing in mind resources available and in a given time frame.

Ethiopia has National Transport Master Plan (ENTMP) was developed by COWI with funding from EU at a cost of 1.9 Million Euro. The Addis Ababa City Roads Authority (AACRA) developed a Strategic Comprehensive Transport Development Plan (SCTDP) 2030. The Consultant was Ramboll of Denmark.

Rwanda has a Strategic Transport Master Plan as well as the National Transport Policy and Strategy. The country also has Kigali Transportation Master Plan 2050. 

South Africa has the National Transport Master Plan (NATMAP) 2050. Was developed in 2011.The Master Plan notes that: “A shortcoming in NATMAP (2050) is the lack of stake holder participation in the context to the formulation process and to disseminate the strategic planning to all stake holders. 

Burundi doesn’t have a Transport Master Plan yet. It however has an infrastructure Action Plan which also takes care of transport infrastructure development.

South Sudan too doesn’t have a Transport Master Plan. The country is still engaged in preliminary studies to develop national as well as Juba City Transport Plans.

Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has an urban transport master Plan for Kinshasa City. Developed with assistance from JICA. The country doesn’t have a transport Masterplan. 

Why Transport Master Plans fail 

Weak decision making. Too many power centers. Too many informal stakeholders with varied interests. Multiplicity of Master Plans with minimal implementation. Continuous reliance on foreign planning firms and agencies to develop master plans. Urban Transport Master Plans are not in sync with National Master Plans and neither are they aligned to regional local governments plans. Complicated land tenure systems make planning very difficult. Drafters of plans are different from people in charge of implementing them. Lack of coordination within and outside the agencies responsible for implementation.

Failure to follow through, and ensure plans are implemented. Plans are most of the times not revisited. Some officers think they know the plans through cram work and not reading the actual plans in detail. Conflicting ideas between civil servants or technocrats and politicians. Those supposed to implement the plans are overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of the problem and don’t know how to confront the problem. They keep procrastinating. They would rather do anything than do nothing. Some plans are designed based on mere theory and assumptions without getting reality on the ground. 

Most of the plans are overambitious and seek to achieve the ideal rather than setting achievable goals given the available resources and context. Most plans don’t have M&E frameworks to track their progress over time. Even where they exist, these are more of academic and theoretical than actual progress.Some plans once implemented could have far reaching negative impact and could fundamentally alter the set-up of an area. It becomes “scary” to implement such plans.

How to make master plans SUCCEED!

Plans are designed based on actual situation prevailing on the ground. Plans are not ambitious plans once passed and agreed upon are not fully supported by both technocrats and political leaders. Strong mechanisms to ensure plans are enforced as stipulated and there’s no compromise. Ensure adequate consultation and coordination during formulation and roll out.

The plans should be fully supported by the public and anchored on promotion of the common good. Avoid using expensive foreign experts. It’s one thing to have well written plans. It’s another to implement them. Start small with simple achievable plans and keep on expanding as you build capacity. 

In conclusion, I will quote Karsten Sten Pederson of COWI who says, “Funding is an important aspect of transport investments, but in developing countries the biggest challenge is often inadequate institutional capacity. Planning without clear processes, effective systems and implementation capacity which inevitably lead to underachievement.”  No plan can be implemented 100% but when a plan fails to achieve even the minimum target, it means the designers and implementers missed the fundamentals right from the start.