The Arab region's strategic geographic location with its abundant resources, give it great international importance. Arab countries share the same great social, cultural, and political values. Over the past decades, the Arab countries have invested significant resources into various sectors, including the transportation sector, due to its vital role in advancing the development processes. New modern roads networks have been established and ports and airports have been constructed and upgraded. Road transport in Arab countries currently accounts for more than 80% of the total transportation of people and goods. In recent years there has been a marked improvement in the length of road networks. The total length of roads in 2006 was 670,000 km. compared with 581,000 km. in 1996. The general aim of road projects is to develop road transport services and to reduce the cost of transporting people and goods, and at the same time improving road safety. Projects involving main roads and highways also link remote and rural areas to cities and service centers. Such projects contribute to economic and social development and improve living standards as well as create new job opportunities.
The Arab Fund's Contributions
The Arab Fund's contribution to inter-Arab projects in transportation is focused on financing the preparation of sectoral studies among Arab countries, leading to the identification of joint Arab projects and the support of priority investments. It gives priority to projects that help link Arab countries and supports this by allocating additional financing towards the implementation of such projects.
In 1979, the Arab Fund contributed to financing the economic and technical feasibility studies for a number of joint Arab transportation projects. The studies included roads in the Iraqi border area between Tadmur and Albukamal stretching to a length of 260 km. In 1982, the Arab Fund conducted a complete survey aimed at establishing a general framework to determine joint Arab road and railway networks. This survey helped identify key links in the networks connecting the Arab countries, and a methodology for prioritizing projects for study and implementation according to a timetable, based on short and long-term transport requirements and traffic flows and the estimated value of the investment required. The Arab Fund, along with other Arab and international financial institutions, financed a number of the projects that emerged from this survey.
In response to the request of the General Secretariat of the GCC countries, the Arab Fund contributed to financing a study on transport patterns in the GCC countries, in order to improve transportation services. It also proposed a strategy for investing in this sector and developing methods of operation and management. This study was completed in 1991.
In 1994, the Arab Fund responded to a request from the Arab Maghreb Union to finance a study on the Maghrebi highway, including a plan and a program to develop specific parts of the highway by 2025. It also responded to a proposal on consolidating the technical specifications of the road. The work included conducting a preliminary study on the road networks connecting the Union Member countries, by a highway extending from Libya to Mauritania, through Tunisia, Morocco, and Algeria, having a total length of about 7,000 kilometers.
The Arab Fund has played an active role in the development of the maritime transport sector in the Arab countries, providing loans for the development of several ports in the Sultanate of Oman, the Republic of Yemen, the Kingdom of Bahrain, and the Republic of Djibouti, while providing two loans to the Arab Republic of Egypt to develop the Suez Canal and the navigational course of the Nile river.
The Arab Fund also contributed to the financing of several projects aimed at the development of the air transport sector. The Fund provided loans for the development of the Sana'a International Airport in the Republic of Yemen, and Mohammed the Fifth's Airport in the Kingdom of Morocco, as well as the Hurghada International Airport in the Arab Republic of Egypt.
In recognition of achieving vital links among the Arab countries and facilitating Arab economic integration, within the vision context of an integrated strategy for the development of Arab transportation sector, the Arab Fund is currently completing technical and economic studies in preparation for an extensive scheme linking the Arab countries by a railway system.