By Anazi Zote
According to research recently published by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) is expected to increase intra-Africa trade in transport by 50 percent.
This research was conducted by experts in the Energy, Infrastructure and Services Section of ECA. It focussed on unpacking the investment opportunity for AfCFTA within the transport sector.
Vera Songwe, UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of the ECA says, “The AfCFTA is expected to significantly increase traffic flows on all transport modes: Road, Rail, Maritime, and Air. But such gains will only be optimized if the AfCFTA is accompanied by implementation of regional infrastructure projects.”
The research, titled “Implications of the African Continental Free Trade Area for demand for transport, infrastructure and services”, released by ECA, indicates that with AfCFTA in absolute terms, over 25 percent of intra-African trade gains in services would go to transport alone; and nearly 40 percent of the increase in Africa’s services production would be in transport.
Robert Lisinge – chief of the energy, infrastructure and services section at ECA – says “roads currently carry the lion’s share of freight in Africa. AfCFTA provides an opportunity to build Africa’s railway network. It would increase intra-Africa freight demand by 28 percent; demand for maritime freight will increase the most”.
The research further illustrates a breakdown of what is needed in order to keep up with infrastructure demands. The findings depict that AfCFTA requires 1,844,000 trucks for bulk cargo and 248,000 trucks for container cargo by 2030. This increases to 1,945,000 and 268,000 trucks respectively if planned infrastructure projects are also implemented.
The largest demand for trucks to support AfCFTA is within West Africa (39 percent); demand from West to Southern Africa is 19.8% and from Southern Africa to Western Africa by 9.9 percent.
The research highlights three focus areas to consider for Africa’s transport network:
- How will implementation of AfCFTA affect demand for transport infrastructure and services?
- What would be the demand for different modes of transport?
- What are the implications for investment in infrastructure development?
- What is needed to keep up with increased infrastructure demands?
Robert Lisinge at ECA emphasises the increased demand on our roads if AfCFTA planned projects for intra-African trade were to come into full effect.
“Africa’s road network is inadequate but implementing planned projects will significantly increase its size. Africa needs to upgrade sections of its roads to cope with increased freight generated by AfCFTA,” says Lisinge.
Lisinge believes that transport infrastructure programmes should be implemented simultaneously with planned projects implemented to increase intra-African trade.
“Freight traffic growth envisaged to be higher in some sections of Africa’s Road network than continent-wide average growth. Implementing AfCFTA will double road freight from 201 to 403 million tonnes,” says Lisinge.
On the rail transport, ECA estimates show that Africa’s rail network is inadequate, but implementing the Programme for Infrastructure Development (PIDA) and other planned projects will significantly increase its size. Implementing planned projects will increase the network by almost 26,500km.
AfCFTA requires 97,614 wagons for bulk cargo and 20,668 wagons for container cargo by 2030. This increases to 132,857 and 36,482 wagons respectively if planned infrastructure projects are also implemented.
Implementing AfCFTA would double maritime freight from 58 to 131.5 million tonnes. Africa’s maritime network includes 142 links connecting 65 ports and accounts for 22.1 percent of intra-African freight transport. Share will increase by 0.6 percent to 22.7 percent if both AfCFTA and planned infrastructure projects are implemented.
AfCFTA requires 126 vessels for bulk cargo and 15 vessels for container cargo by 2030. This reduces to 121 and 14 vessels respectively if planned infrastructure projects are also implemented.
The continent’s air transport network includes a total of 14,762 air routes (connecting each airport with the other 121 airports). Implementing AfCFTA would double the number of tonnes transported by air from 2.3 to 4.5 million.
In 2019, air accounted for only 0.9 percent of intra-Africa freight transport. Implementation of AfCFTA would double air freight from 2.3 to 4.5 million tonnes. Air traffic is therefore expected to double in 2030 compared to 2019.
Overall negotiations are still ongoing regarding investment, intellectual property rights, competition policy and e-commerce. However, AfCFTA’s objective is to create a single continental market for goods and services, with free movement of people and investments, enhancing competitiveness and supporting economic transformation. – ESI Africa