The Trans-Sahara Highway is one of the oldest transnational highways in Africa and one of the most complete, having been proposed in 1962, with construction of sections in the Sahara starting in the 1970s. Its central section is still little-used though, and still requires special vehicles and precautions to be taken to survive the harsh environment and climate of the centre of the desert.
All the 1200 km of the highway lying in Nigeria is part of that country's national paved road network and includes nearly 500 km of four-lane divided sections, but highway maintenance is frequently deficient in Nigeria and at times parts of the road may be in poor condition, including having lost the pavement.
About half the highway, over 2300 km, lies in Algeria but particularly south of In Salah much of it is in poor condition, prone to flooding run-off from the Hoggar mountains and is constantly being repaired. In 2007 the southern half of the 400 km from Tamanrasset to In Guezzam on the Niger border has been sealed. Although work continues, the rest is sand.
Niger has 985 km of the highway of which 655 km is paved but also in poor condition. Further details are given below.
Another crossing of the Sahara is proposed for the Tripoli-Cape Town Highway (Trans-African Highway 3) but this route requires a great deal more construction, faces problems of instability and lawlessness in northern Chad, and is not likely to stimulate trade to the same extent as TAH 2. Consequently it may be decades away from completion.
Two other Trans-African Highways cross the Sahara, but at its edges. In 2005 the Cairo-Dakar Highway (TAH 1) in the west along the Atlantic coast became the first fully sealed highway crossing the Sahara from north to south (baring a few kilometres in No Man's Land between Morocco/Western Sahara and Mauritania). The Cairo-Cape Town Highway (TAH 5) followings the Nile in the east, but has long unpaved sections in Sudan, Ethiopia and Kenya.
In summary, although a few paved sections may be in poor condition, only 200 km of the route remains as an unimproved desert track, and only 130 km remains unpaved but 'improved'.
ALGERIA: ALGERIA RESUMES CONSTRUCTION OF THE TRANS-SAHARA HIGHWAY.(Brief Article)(Statistical Data Included)
Mar 30, 2000; According to the North Africa Journal, after having been abandoned for over a decade, construction of the Tran-Sahara highway may...