building roads in South Africa

No two road-building projects are the same, so there isn’t a standard unit cost per kilometre.

However, there are ways to estimate how much it costs to build roads in South Africa.

Statistics about road building in South Africa

These are estimates of road-building statistics in South Africa:

Factors that add to road-building costs in South Africa

Designing and building roads is a complex and expensive task. In South Africa, unique factors contribute to escalating costs.


The use of labour-intensive methods creates jobs. Unfortunately, it’s not an efficient or cost-effective way to meet targets.


South Africa’s construction industry has failed to leverage new technologies. State funding for research and development hasn’t been forthcoming. Consequently, the road-building process is outdated and expensive.

Collusion and inefficiencies

Possible collusion during bid and tender processes, alongside inefficiencies at contractor level, are key to spikes in the end-cost of large-scale infrastructure projects.

The Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA) pegged irregular and wasteful expenditure at more than R10 billion on just one freeway construction project in Gauteng.

Unique challenges

A recent survey of key industry stakeholders revealed a slew of SA-centric factors impacting road construction. The main issues are land proclamation and community unrest.

A shortage of skilled labourers, lack of equipment and materials, performance guarantees and cost overruns are among red flags raised by respondents.

Reliable data

South Africa faces a shortage of reliable, readily available data about the unit costs of building roads.

In fact, a 2016 project proposed by the Government Technical Advisory Centre (GTAC) to assess the unit cost of provincial roads in South Africa had to be scrapped. This was because information about project details and costs simply wasn’t available.

More recently, GTAC did publish an informative case study on the costs of upgrading provincial roads in the Eastern Cape from gravel to surface roads.

However, the study was limited and similar information for other provinces appears difficult to come by.

Complex road-building regulations

Municipalities, provinces and the South African National Roads Agency (SANRAL) are responsible for building, maintaining and regulating roads.

City and provincial road networks are taxpayer funded through rates and taxes. National highways are constructed by SANRAL and paid for by a fuel levy.

Projects are tendered to consultancy firms and contractors. They design and construct the roads on the government’s behalf.

Road engineers plan, design and manage end-to-end construction processes. They’re involved in every aspect of the build, from analysing survey reports and estimating the quantities and cost of materials, equipment and labour, to computing load and grade requirements.

Saving on costs with rebuilt equipment

Key cost components of road construction and maintenance are environmental works, bulk earthworks, drainage and finishing works. These all involve the use of motor graders.

Instead of investing in new equipment, it makes good sense to opt for equipment that has been expertly reconditioned. This can translate into a massive savings.

Once a grader starts getting old, it also makes sense to have it expertly rebuilt – rather than repeatedly forking out for expensive repairs and having to absorb the consequences of unpredictable downtime.

At KH Plant, we specialise in restoring Caterpillar 140G, 140H and 140K motor graders and components to as-new condition – so you can get the benefits of a new motor grader at a fraction of the cost of a new machine. Contact us for more information or to discuss your needs.

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