Road freight charges in sub-Saharan Africa are on average 200% more expensive than elsewhere in the world, says World Bank infrastructure and sustainable development sector leader Southern Africa Juan Gaviria. In the specific case of South Africa, which is more developed than its neighbours, costs are still 40% higher than in other countries, he adds.

Gaviria says limited competition along trucking trade corridors in the sub-Saharan region keeps road tariffs unnecessarily high. “Road transport and, by default, ports and air transport, are much more expensive here than elsewhere.” Gaviria adds that freight moves at a “very slow pace” within the sub-Saharan region. Trucks move at a general speed of 50 km/h in Southern Africa, and 35 km/h in Western Africa.

“If we then look at the effective velocity, taking into account border issues, the speeds are probably the lowest in the world. “This is really affecting development in the region,” says Gaviria. The average velocity of trains in Southern Africa is 30 km/h. Restoring Africa’s ageing rail network to good operating condition will require a one-time rehabilitation effort of $3-billion.

Also, road density in sub-Saharan Africa is between 30% and 40% below that of other developing countries. Gaviria quotes these figures from the Africa Infrastructure Country Diagnostic (AIDC), launched earlier this month, in Midrand. The AIDC was published following months of research into the continent’s infrastructure situation. Surveys were conducted among 16 rail operators, 20 road entities, 30 power utilities, 30 ports, 60 airports, and 80 water utilities. The AIDC is being implemented by the World Bank, on behalf of a steering committee chaired by the African Union Commission.

“For the first time we now have a concrete database,” says Gaviria.  “The study shows that African transport infrastructure lags behind other developing countries. So, the reality check is that we have low transport quality and very, very high transport costs.” In an effort to remedy the situation, the World Bank, as a global financier, is supporting four trade and transport facilitation projects in Africa, says Gaviria. Around 80% of the project costs circle around road rehabilitation or rail concessioning, linking countries together to create more effective trade corridors.

In Eastern Africa there is a $250-million project, linking Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Rwanda, under implementation. In Central Africa there is a $200-million project to link Cameroon, Chad, and the Central African Republic. A third project is in West Africa, at $190-million, with the fourth along the Abidjan – Lagos corridor linking the Ivory Coast, Ghana, Togo and Nigeria at a cost of $240-million. Gaviria says there is also a strong focus on creating one-stop border posts and customs modernisation. “For the World Bank as a financing agency . . . transport and trade integration is an absolute must.”

Edited by: Creamer Media Reporter

PUBLICATION: Engineering News
AUTHOR: Irma Venter
DATED: 26th November 2009