Cairo–Cape Town Highway

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Cairo-Cape Town Highway Map.png

The CairoCape Town Highway is Trans-African Highway 4 in the transcontinental road network being developed by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), the African Development Bank (ADB), and the African Union. The route has a length of 10,228 km and was first proposed in the late 19th century as the Cape to Cairo Road, an effort similar to the Cape to Cairo Railway connecting the British Empire's colonies in eastern Africa.


The route passes through Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana and South Africa. The construction of a road along the route was originally proposed to advance the British Empire with the Cape to Cairo Road plan advocated by Cecil Rhodes.

The modern revival of the plan occurred in the 1980s. South Africa was not originally included in the route which was first planned in the Apartheid era, but it is now recognized that it would continue into that country. The consultants' report suggested Pretoria as end, which seems somewhat arbitrary and as a major port, Cape Town is regarded as the southern end of regional highways in Southern African Development Community countries. The highway may be referred to in documents as the Cairo–Gaborone Highway or Cairo – Pretoria Highway.

Missing links[edit]

The southern half of the Cairo–Cape Town Highway is complete but it still requires construction in northern Kenya .The central route through Tanzania is now tarred and now passable for those who ought not to take through the east route through the country. The stretch of highway between Dongola and Wadi Halfa in Northern Sudan is now complete (as of June 2010) but crossing the Egypt-Sudan border by road is still prohibited (and has been prohibited for a number of years) so the vehicle ferry on Lake Nasser is used instead.

The Ethiopian section is all tarmac road, although much of the Ethiopian section passes through mountainous terrain and parts of the road may be hazardous as a result.

The missing link in northern Kenya also requires paving, and at times this section has been hazardous due to the activities of armed bandits. The road from the border at Moyale to Isiolo has been dubbed 'the road to hell' by overland travellers.

As Kenya has a paved link to its border with South Sudan, ultimately a route through South Sudan and southern Sudan via Khartoum may provide a shorter alternative to the Ethiopian route.

The once gravel section through Dodoma in central Tanzania is now tarred and passable throughout the year, and the alternative paved route via Moshi, Korogwe and Morogoro may also be considered to have a better claim to be part of the highway.

Between Chalinze or Iringa and Kapiri Mposhi in Zambia the highway uses an important regional route, the Tanzam Highway, also called the Great North Road in Zambia. This highway has the distinction of being the only link between any of Africa's five major regions which is paved, linking East Africa to Southern Africa. It is the most used of any such inter-regional road on the continent.

Except for passing through Ethiopia and not passing through Johannesburg and Harare (formerly Salisbury), the Cairo to Cape Town Highway roughly coincides with proposals for the Cape to Cairo Road in the early 20th century British Empire.


The first attempt to travel from Cape Town to Cairo by road was the Court Treatt expedition of 1924.