The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) holds a lot of promise for Africa’s economy, and has the potential to increase transport services by nearly 50 per cent, according to the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA).
In a press release copied to Ghana Business News, the ECA says its latest estimates show the AfCFTA is expected to increase intra-African trade in transport services by nearly 50 per cent.
According to the release, the estimates based on a study titled: ‘Implications of the African Continental Free Trade Area for demand for transport, infrastructure and services’, released at the fifth African Business Forum on February 7, indicate that with the AfCFTA in absolute terms, over 25 per cent of intra-African trade gains in services would go to transport alone; and nearly 40 per cent of the increase in Africa’s services production would be in transport.
The AfCFTA requires more than 1.8 million trucks for bulk cargo and 248,000 trucks for container cargo by 2030. This increases to 1.9 million and 268,000 trucks respectively if planned infrastructure projects are also implemented, the study found.
The largest demand for trucks to support AfCFTA, it indicated, is within West Africa, some 39 per cent; while demand from West to Southern Africa is 19.8 per cent and from Southern Africa to Western Africa by 9.9 per cent, it states.
The research considered the following key questions; such as – how will implementation of AfCFTA affect demand for transport infrastructure and services? What would be the demand for different modes of transport, and what are the implications for investment in infrastructure development? What would be the infrastructure and equipment needs for different transport modes?
Commenting, Vera Songwe, UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of the ECA said the AfCFTA is “expected to significantly increase traffic flows on all transport modes: Road, Rail, Maritime, and Air,” but that such gains will only be optimized if the AfCFTA is accompanied by implementation of regional infrastructure projects.
On his part, Robert Lisinge, Chief of the Energy, Infrastructure and Services Section at ECA, said “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 per cent; demand for maritime freight will increase the most.”
Mr Lisinge further noted that AfCFTA and Africa’s transport infrastructure programmes are intrinsically linked and should be implemented simultaneously.
He said the Trans-African Highways (TAH) & Programme for Infrastructure Development (PIDA) and the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) should be prioritised at the same level with AfCFTA.
Commenting on road transport, Mr Lisinge said; “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.
“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.”
He also noted that implementing TAH and PIDA projects, increases capacity of transport networks to accommodate freight growth. Reaping the huge benefits of AfCFTA to the transport sector requires implementation of regional infrastructure and services programmes.
The study estimates that implementing planned projects will increase Africa’s inadequate rail networks by almost 26,500km, adding that the 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, it noted.
The study also found that implementing the AfCFTA would double maritime freight from 58 to 131.5 million tonnes. Africa’s maritime network includes 142 links connecting 65 ports; accounts for 22.1 per cent of intra-African freight transport. Share will increase by 0.6 per cent to 22.7 per cent 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, it said.
According to the study, in 2019, air transport accounted for only 0.9 per cent of intra-Africa freight transport and implementation of the AfCFTA would double airfreight from 2.3 to 4.5 million tonnes. Air traffic is therefore expected to double in 2030, compared to 2019.
The research was conducted by experts in the Energy, Infrastructure and Services Section of the ECA.
By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi