Cement versus Asphalt: The next bout could be in Lagos

The Cement Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (considering their acrimonious relationship, I wonder how they managed to form a group) and Business Day Newspaper are stumping for a conference to promote concrete as an alternative to road paving.

In Nigeria, even unborn babies know that our major issues are beyond electricity or lack of it  (babies get cooked in the tummy from the heat) but also bad leaders, insecurity, bad roads and mosquitoes. At least if the roads are good, one can always make a speedy escape from aspiring Boko Harams.

When I say the roads are terrible, believe me, I’m wrong. We don’t even have roads. What we have is a spaghetti network of butchery stretching across the nation. Millions (I didn’t count) have lost their lives from unwarranted accidents.

While the nation points accusing fingers at the government for non-repairs, the few that manage to catch the rare fix get damaged pretty fast because the asphalt pavings don’t last. This is where concrete comes in. Concrete last longer than bitumen, and have some additional qualities such as:

  • Concrete lasts longer with less need for maintenance and repair. In fact studies show that concrete Interstate highways around the U.S. last about 2.5 times longer on average than asphalt Interstate highways.
  • Lower cost for vehicles. Heavy trucks get up to 20% better mileage on concrete.
  • Concrete is quiet
  • Concrete is safer from better skid control, better visibility at night, etc.
  • Concrete is environmentally friendly as it doesn’t release foul chemicals
  • Concrete can be made to be pretty snazzy with different colors and designs

Concrete roads are common in North America (and some parts of Unilag):  frat boys have been skidding on these roads without repairs since 1962. Can you beat that? The new asphalt overlay, funded by a World Bank loan on Ikorodu road didn’t even last 4 hours.

Typical road reconstruction for 2 lane 7 meter per lane road is about $450K per kilometer (if a dual carriage, multiply by 2 and if 3 lane dual carriage, by 3). Asphalt overlay will set a governor back by $133K per kilometer. A brand new construction is a different kettle of fish, it cost about $1.5M per kilometer. By the way, should the Western Avenue reconstruction for 2 kilometers of Lagos Bahn cost N7B?

The interesting thing is if governments can adopt concrete, then there is going to be a real boon for cement makers. Will that drive up the price or down? That depends on capacity. But if prices inch up too much, you can be sure that road makers and others will soon hit the import market.

Either way, concrete road should give us longer lasting and better roads.

Comments 2

  1. Wole Awe wrote:

    Thanks Deji. Nice write-up. In as much a concrete paved roads are better and cheaper (on the long run) the issue of grossly overloaded haulage/articulated vehicles must be addressed. These vehicles are majorly the problem.

    Posted 09 May 2012 at 4:55 pm
  2. Adédèjì Olówè wrote:

    You are absolutely on point. I don’t think there is any road anywhere in the world where roads are subjected to as much regular load as Nigerian roads. To save haulage cost, trucks are loaded more than their load-bearing standard, exerting undue pressure on the roads.

    This calamity happened when NNPC stopped pumping fuel to the PPMC stations across the country. The pipelines are now useless while trucks ship fuel from Lagos.

    Posted 09 May 2012 at 5:15 pm

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