Assessing Travel Times and Transport Costs in Africa South of the Sahara: A Case Study in Malawi

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Market level partial or general equilibrium models require estimates of the cost of transporting goods from one region to another. In some regions, obtaining accurate estimates of the transport costs for basic commodities, such as agricultural goods or inputs, such as fertilizer, can be quite difficult. Lack of spatial data or information related to the transport industry means that estimates of the road distances, travel time, and transport cost between countries, or between urban and rural areas are often inaccurate and based on unrealistic simplifying assumptions. This technical brief presents a method of estimating transport costs by road between three major urban areas in north, south, and central Malawi. The method of estimating travel time based on geospatial data is described, as well as how to determine the total transport cost for basic commodities, is described. The purpose of the brief is to provide a template for the estimation of road transport costs for regions characterized by poor quality data, such as most of sub Saharan Africa.

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