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AfCFTA: A driving force for transport and logistics in Africa  

Improved transport and logistics in Africa have immense potential to realise the vision of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA). The AfCFTA envisions a borderless Africa, removing barriers to trade and investment by eliminating tariffs on most goods and harmonising customs procedures, while encouraging entrepreneurship and foreign investment, and promoting the free movement of people and capital.

Aligning with the AfCFTA is an overarching theme at this year’s Transport Evolution Africa Forum & Expo and co-located Logistics Evolution Africa Forum & Expo from 20-22 September at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli ICC Complex in Durban.

During a recent online panel discussion, various challenges and opportunities were placed on the agenda to be unpacked at the shows later this year.

From efficient road networks and modern rail systems to well-performing port facilities and streamlined air transportation, transport and logistics are the catalyst for sustainable, cross-border exchange and economic development, and have a pivotal role to play in the success of the AfCFTA.   

Beatrice Chaytor, Head of Division – Trade in Services of the AfCFTA Secretariat in Ghana believes once the AfCFTA is fully implemented, traffic routes across air, ports, rail and road travel will improve. “There are significant opportunities for investors in vital infrastructure like airports, warehousing, cold storage and more, and with tourism on the continent back to 88% of pre-pandemic levels for the first quarter of the year, ensuring a robust and reliable transport and logistics system across the continent makes good business sense.”

She mentioned that 46 out of 56 African countries have signed the AfCFTA, and governments now need to embrace this commitment and regulations must follow. Transport and logistics will be prioritised to be “liberalised” under the AfCFTA, with developments expected in the coming months.

John Bosco Kalisa, an economist and EABC Executive Director agreed that transport and logistics are enablers of the AfCFTA and said intra-Africa trade is currently at 17%. “Intra-continental trade in Africa could reach 81% by 2035.”

Andrew Othieno from Uganda’s Prime Minister’s Delivery Unit said improved transport and logistics will boost job creation and reduce poverty among other benefits. “Accessibility, connectivity, productivity, capacity and predictability matter. The faster people can move around, the more the African economy can progress.”  

Othieno also suggested that breaking down silos in government and working together will drive greater progress. This is a theme at the shows this year, where networking and broadening horizons are firmly on the agenda.

“Digitisation is also important to boost global access,” Othieno commented.  Bowale Odumade, VP at Africa Financial Corporation (AFC) agreed as nearly 30% of African countries are landlocked, so “we need to remove cross-border constraints. All stakeholders must come together for the common good,” she said, particularly highlighting the challenges in successfully financing African infrastructure projects due to the current costly and lengthy processes involved.

The panelists agreed that without partnerships and the private sector’s support, it will be difficult to take infrastructure projects forward. Dr Christian Kingombe, a consultant trade, transit and transport expert from Geneva said that 75% of the product cost in Africa goes into logistics, whereas this cost only accounts for 7% of products in the US. “If we reduce trade barriers and costs, and stamp out corruption, we will see significant results.”

Don’t miss Transport Evolution Africa Forum & Expo, in its 11th year, expected to host thousands of visitors and hundreds of exhibitors across Africa’s port, rail, and road industries. “Attendees should expect to be inspired, resolve concerns and come away with fresh ideas for effective transport and logistics solutions across the continent,” Le-Ann Hare concludes.

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