Most ports along the coast of Africa have recently announced and commenced major expansion works in preparation for projected growth and increase in container trade activities towards the region as a result of rapid expansion and urbanization of the region’s population.
Major port developments are expected to come on board and be operational at various locations in the region in the very near to mid-term future. These ports developments are expected to not only serve their respective countries but the landlocked (hinterlands) states as well.
It is estimated that nearly one in every three African country is landlocked, an area which accounts for about 26 percent of the continent’s landmass with approximately 25 percent of the population. Getting access to and fully untapping these markets would therefore require not only coastal ports developments but also significant investments in inland logistics (hinterland connectivity) as well.
A recent African Development Bank (ADB) report on African trade, indicated that while shipping a standard 40’ container from Shanghai to Mombasa, Kenya on the coast of East Africa, costs less than USD $1,000, moving the same container from Mombasa to the city of Bujumbura, in Burundi, in Central Africa, a distance of approximately 2,000 km costs USD $7,000.
The report further mentioned that while the sea voyage from China to Kenya takes 28 days, the roadway journey by truck from Kenya’s port into land-locked Burundi requires 40 days.
Furthermore, a typical standard container being transported along the corridors of some African countries is subjected to as much as 15 different “artificial” road blocks or more. This practice does not only delay the cargo but also adds up to the cost as some form of monies (bribes) are usually paid at this road blocks ultimately increasing the overall price of the goods to the final consumer. It’s therefore no surprise to sometimes find some products costing abnormally more in Africa than it cost in its origin outside Africa.
It would be ideal therefore to suggest that, the key to Africa’s’ success is to effectively integrate port developments with effective hinterland connectivity. The effectiveness of this inland connectivity should not be limited to only roads and rail networks but should also include warehousing, inland container depots, refrigerated container operations etc.
The U.N projects the overall population of Africa to grow from 1.1 billion today to 1.6 billion in 2030, representing an increase of 500 million, the equivalent of the current combined population of the 28 European Union nations. What a huge market to serve! this projections further emphasizes the need for an effective hinterland connectivity in the region .
In conclusion whiles the likes of APM Terminals, MSC etc are facilitating transshipment between ports and interior destinations by establishing inland container depots outside terminals in some African states, the continent still needs major investments in the sector to ensure supply chain efficiency which in turn would lead to better prosperity and improve the standard of living in the Region.
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