The IRF World Road Statistics 2019 published at the beginning of September 2019, covers data for 208 countries and provides information on 11 important topics encompassing 56 indicators, ranging from road accidents, to road expenditure and road network. An analysis of the road network data revealed that South Asia has the highest road density. Covering less than 4% of the global land area, South Asia retains almost 18% of the global road network, thus allowing it to record the highest regional road density of 1.41 km/km². Within South Asia, Bangladesh, India and Sri Lanka are the top three countries with regard to road network density. As Bangladesh and India are classified as lower middle income countries by the World Bank, it substantiates the further analysis of global road network density by income group, which revealed that overall, lower middle income countries recorded the highest road network density.
Road networks form a vital part of a nation’s infrastructure as it serves as the gateway to development in other sectors. Connectivity through road networks can enable eradicating poverty as it can provide access to education, medical facilities, employment and social capital opportunities, amongst others. Reducing distance between markets, people and knowledge through quality road networks stimulate economic growth, which can create a cycle of growth opportunities for all sectors.
Following South Asia, Europe accounts for the second highest road network density with 1.14 km/km² and 17% of the global road network. Within Europe, and globally, Monaco as a city-state acts as a major outlier, reporting the world’s highest road network density of 28 km/km². Besides Monaco, Malta, San Marino and the Netherlands record the highest road network density. On the other end of the spectrum, the North Africa and Central Asia regions account for the lowest road densities.
The road network density of high income countries is almost at par with that of middle income countries, with 0.44 km/km². Monaco, Macao (China) and Malta are the top three countries in this income group with high road densities. On the other hand, low income countries recorded the lowest figure for road density (0.08 km/km².). It is noteworthy to mention that high income countries account for 39% of the global road network, whilst low income countries account for only about 3%. Whilst high correlation must not imply causation, it is quite likely that fewer kilometres of road hinder the economic growth opportunities in low income countries.
As mentioned previously, North Africa and Central Asia account for the lowest figure in road density globally, substantiated further by the road expenditure data which reveals that these regions account for only 1.3% and 1.4% of the global total investment on roads, respectively.
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