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MPhil in Engineering for Sustainable Development

global challenges, engineering solutions

Rural Road Infrastructure and Poverty Alleviation - Policy Implications for South Africa

Sinomnqa (Nomi) Bodlani

Rural Road Infrastructure and Poverty Alleviation - Policy Implications for South Africa

The poverty reducing impacts of physical infrastructure are widely reported. Road infrastructure, in particular, has served an important function in the poverty reduction efforts of developing countries such as China, the Philippines and Indonesia. In South Africa, the post-Apartheid government, which took over in 1994, has had as its primary objective the redressing of inequalities inherited from the Apartheid regime through stimulating economic growth and the provision of basic services and infrastructure.  Further, it is the legacy of Apartheid that much of South Africa’s poor is located in the rural areas. Of the service and infrastructure delivery undertaken by the post-Apartheid government, it is apparent that rural transport and road infrastructure have not received due attention.

This study investigates the impact of rural roads on the rural population in South Africa
with a view of making a case for more targeted effort to increase the level of rural roadaccess. Amartya Sen’s Capability Approach is used to give a broad definition of poverty, enabling the inclusion of indicators such as employment and education in what is a poverty-concerned analysis. A time-series multiple regression analysis, spanning the years 1995 – 2000, is conducted in order to ascertain the impact of rural road density on education and employment. A cross-sectional evaluation is then performed in order to determine provincial and municipal differences in dimensions of poverty (employment and education) as explained by differences in road-access. A road-access index is developed in order to facilitate the cross-sectional evaluation. The resultant trends indicate that road-access may be correlated with the achievement of functionings by a larger proportion of the population. Suggestions are also made for the delivery of rural roads in the context of existing policy.



Course Overview


The need to engage in better problem definition through careful dialogue with all stakeholder groups and a proper recognition of context.


An ability to work with specialists from other disciplines and professional groups acknowledging that technical innovation and business skills also must be understood, nurtured and combined as precursors to the successful implementation of sustainable solutions.


An understanding of mechanisms for managing change in organisations so future engineers are equipped to play a leadership role.


An awareness of a range of assessment frameworks, sustainability metrics and methodologies such as Life Cycle Analysis, Systems Dynamics, Multi-Criteria Decision making and Impact Assessment.