The development of transport infrastructure – road networks in particular – is vital to economic and social advancement in Lesotho as well as the broader African region. While huge investments have already been made, accelerated network expansion is needed to unlock the growth potential of sectors such as tourism and agriculture, especially in the rural areas.
Lesotho’s road infrastructure is estimated at over 7 438 kilometres in length, comprising 1 217 kilometres of paved roads, 3 758 kilometres of gravel and 1 885 kilometres of earth. Covering some of the most difficult rugged terrain on the continent, the road system links urban communities with remote rural areas, as well as connecting to the South African road network at a variety of places.The speed limit is 80 km/h and 50 km/h in urban areas and seat belts are compulsory. Drivers’ licences issued in most countries are valid in Lesotho for a period of up to six months, provided they are printed in English or are accompanied by a certified translation. International driving permits are also recognised.
The Moshoeshoe I International Airport is located about 20 kilometres from Maseru, and is suitable for medium-range jet aircraft such as the Boeing 727. Facilities include two passenger terminals, one cargo terminal and four runways. There are regular flights to and from Oliver Tambo (Johannesburg) International Airport available through South African Airlink. Flying time to Johannesburg is approximately one hour and ten minutes, and from there connecting flights are available to a range of international destinations. Air services also play a role in facilitating international document and parcel delivery for courier companies. There are plans to develop Moshoeshoe I international Airport into a cargo airport to facilitate the exports of local producer as well as to service neighbouring SADC countries, particularly those within the SACU region.
Regional Transportation Network Development
A Regional Infrastructure Action Agenda that identifies opportunities for improving regional links has been developed by South Africa, and this is being used to enter into discussions with neighbouring countries for the joint pursuit of common interst projects. The development of transport network is also highlighted under the South Africa – Lesotho Joint Bilateral Commission Cooperation Agreement (JBCC).
The northern highlands have been opened up therough the linking of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP) tarred road to the northern trunk route (the Main North 1), which in turn connects to improved roads at Caledonspoort and Ficksburg on the South African side. The southern trunk route – the Main South 1 – connects the capital Maseru by tarred road to Mount Moorosi in Quthing district.
Providing a direct link from Lesotho to the South African province of KwaZulu-Natal and its port city of Durban, the tarring of the road which climbs the 2874-metre high Sani Pass holds tremendous benefits for both countries, including reduced traveling time, major savings on fuel consumption, lower vehicle operating costs, increased bilateral and transit trade and tourism opportunities.
Planned in three phases, with completion scheduled for 2009, the first phase will see the tarring of the 14 kilometre stretch between the Himeville turnoff and the former Good Hope Store.
Phase Two will continue the tarring to the present South African border post, while the third phase will provide a tarred surface along a series of hairpin bends up the steepest 8 kilometres of the pass to the summit at Sani Top, the site of the present Lesotho border post. A feasibility study is presently underway on the possibility of tarring the 49-kilometre gravel road from Sani Top, crossing the 3 240-metre high Kotisephola Pass to the existing tarred road to Mokhotlong and Thaba-Tseka. It is hoped that by 2009 tar will cover the entire ‘Roof of Africa’ road from Botha Bothe through Oxbow past the Letseng Diamond Mine and the Mokhotlong turnoff at Thabang to Sani Pass.