The shipping industry of Africais predominantly spread outacross three maritime tradingregions: Dar es Salaam-Tanzania and Mombasa-Kenya in EastAfrica, Ports of Durban, Maputo andCape Town in Southern Africa andLagos-Nigeria and Dakar-Senegalin West Africa on the east. The continentneeds to develop integratedtransport infrastructure for all modesof transport including rail, sea, road,air to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of transport systemsand services. “The processing timeat ports, the dwell time at ports cansignificantly be improved with a welldeveloped and structured integratedtransport infrastructure system,” saysDr. John Tambi, Transport Infrastructure Expert at NEPAD.
The New Partnership for Africa'sDevelopment (NEPAD) is a programmeof the African Union (AU)adopted in Lusaka, Zambia in 2001. NEPAD is a radically new intervention,spearheaded by African leaders topursue new priorities and approachesto the political and socio-economictransformation of Africa. NEPAD's objectiveis to enhance Africa's growth,development and participation in the global economy.
Africa’s shipping trade is mainlyfocused on containerized cargo andgeneral cargo. However, the continenthas witnessed a low rate of containerizedtrade due to deficiency of integratedrail and road links. “This is notthe only reason. For example, there islack of requisite capital to expand portfacilities to accommodate containertraffic, and also the low volume ofcontainer traffic, etc,” says Dr. Tambi.
Developing African ports
There are various models of developingports; the management concessionmodel, where the private sectortakes over the entire management andoperation of the port or the service port model, wherein the port authorityis in charge of frontline functionsunder a centralized organizationalstructure and private participation isassigned secondary services.
Increasingly, it is the landlord portmodel that is gaining prominence inAfrica. As per this model, the publicsector withdraws from front-linecargo-handling operations, allowingthese to be concessioned to the privatesector, while the port authority,functioning on a corporatized autonomousbasis, focuses on estate management,navigation, and planning.“This model is great, but we mustbe very careful about how it is implemented,and also be aware of thesocial consequences. When we talkabout the private sector taking oversome of these activities, what privatesector are we talking about? TheAfrican private sector could be partof those taking over the other activities,but experience has shown that, it is only the peripheral and minimallyprofitable activities, that the Africanprivate sector is involved in, the bulkof the major activities that are reallythe heartbeat of port operations arealways left to the foreign private sector,”argues Dr. Tambi.
Focusing on the role of foreignprivate sector, Port of Antwerp is tocollaborate in further developing theport of San Pedro in Côte d’Ivoire(West Africa) over the next few years.The port of San Pedro, which currentlyhandles a freight volume of between1.5 and 2 million tonnes annually, hasthe ambition to expand significantlyon a regional scale.
A number of practical investmentand development projects havealready been drawn up for this. Logisticszones will be set up in the hinterlandof the port, in among othersthe cities of Odienné, Touba and Man.Further, space will be created in theport of San Pedro for logistics zonesto handle rice, cashew nuts, fertilisersand cotton. Finally, an additional 150hectares of port area will be maderipe for development with a view toattracting investors.
“There is nothing wrong with thisas long as the foreign private sector isprepared to invest in the developmentof the port and most importantly, toinvest and ensure that there is skilltransfer as well as technology transfer.The employment aspect must beseriously considered, given the lowemployment levels of most Africancountries,” says Dr. Tambi .
Meanwhile, private operators arewilling to invest in handling equipment,well-trained staff and warehousingif the authorities can assuresufficient nautical accessibility andquay walls. “We are convinced thatthis balance is the best answer tofight legendary congestion in Africanports,” says Nico Vertongen, Director-Africa, Port of Antwerp International(PAI). However, developingport of San Pedro has its own set ofchallenges. The biggest challengewill be the development of the futureport domain and the additional cargothat can be attracted. San Pedro has avery promising hinterland, stretching even into neighboring Liberia, Maliand Guinee Conackry. “The developmentof mining industry will also createcaptive cargo opportunities. Andof course, there is the dominant cocoaindustry, rubber, palm oil and othernatural products. Port developmentwill have to deal with the interests andfocus of these different commoditiesand make to right choices and foreseethe right timing. PAI and Port Authorityof San Pedro (PASP) intend towork together to tackle these issues,”adds Vertongen.
Other than inefficient infrastructure,there are several challengingissues affecting Africa’s shippingtrade. These challenges can be principallycategorized as external andinternal. “The External challenges aremore daunting than the internal ones.For example, there is no secret thatthe shipping trade is dominated bya cartel of major international shippinglines, and to some extent veryrestrictive, that is with regards toentry by small African shipping lines,”explains Dr. Tambi. This makes it difficultfor small African shipping linesto compete effectively. With regardsto internal challenges, he further addsthat just as in the aviation industry,the African private sector has notreally been very actively involved inmaritime activities. Another majorchallenge in developing Africa’s shippingtrade is the imbalance in importexportstatistics. “A lot of consumerproducts, (second-hand) cars, constructionmaterials, food stuff, etc.are entering the continent via theports. Exports are mainly forest andagricultural products and oil & gasproducts,” says Vertongen.
Unlocking trade potential
The key to unlocking Africa’s tradepotential is development of transshipmentfacilities that can helplower costs considerably. Mombasaand Dar es Salaam have the potentialto serve as regional transshipmentpoints, but both face severe capacityproblems. In southern Africa, Durbanstruggles berth congestion duringthe peak season. “Yes indeed, thereis certainly a need for transshipment facilities along the African coastline,but we also have to be cognizant ofthe several small ports along the Africancoastline competing for the samemarket. In my opinion, there is a needfor a systemic development of portsoperations along the African coastlineto prevent unnecessary competitionand save the resources currentlybeing used to develop some of theseports,” says Dr. Tambi. Emphasizingfurther on the need to develop a huband spoke type system of port operationsalong the African coastline,he adds, “These will certainly bringabout a much more rational port operation,reduce unnecessary competitionamong ports and improve port efficiencyalong the African coastline.”
As for the future, Africa should getthe most out of the potential advantagesits waterways can offer. Newdeveloping African ports include theport of Lamu, Kenya that will serve asa gateway connection for SouthernSudan and the Democratic Republicof Congo with the middle east andAsia, and Nacala and Beira portsin Mozambique, serving the SADCregion. While the influence hub ofthese ports may be small at present,the improvement of road and rail infrastructurewill open up the Africanhinterland.
Source: Logistic Update Africa, India