The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) is expected to increase intra-African trade in transport services by nearly 50% by 2030, the latest estimates by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) show.
The estimates contained in the ‘Implications of the AfCFTA for demand for transport, infrastructure and services’ report indicate that, with AfCFTA in place, in absolute terms, more than 25% of intra-African trade gains in services would go to transport alone, and nearly 40% of the increase in Africa’s services production would be in transport.
“The AfCFTA is expected to significantly increase traffic flows on all transport modes, including road, rail, maritime and air, but such gains will only be optimised if the AfCFTA is accompanied by implementation of regional infrastructure projects,” says UN under-secretary-general and ECA executive secretary Vera Songwe.
“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% and demand for maritime freight will increase the most." says ECA Energy, Infrastructure and Services section chief Robert Lisinge.
According to the research findings, AfCFTA requires 1.84-million trucks for bulk cargo and 248 000 trucks for container cargo by 2030. This increases to 1.95-million and 268 000 trucks, respectively, if planned infrastructure projects are also implemented.
The largest demand for trucks to support AfCFTA is within West Africa, at 39%, followed by demand from West to Southern Africa at 19.8%, and then from Southern Africa to Western Africa by 9.9%.
AfCFTA and Africa’s transport infrastructure programmes are intrinsically linked and should be implemented simultaneously. The Trans-African Highways (TAH), the Programme for Infrastructure Development (PIDA) and the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) should be prioritised at the same level with AfCFTA, Lisinge suggests.
“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-million to 403-million tonnes,” he says.
Implementing TAH and PIDA projects increases capacity of transport networks to accommodate freight growth. However, reaping the huge benefits of AfCFTA to the transport sector requires implementation of regional infrastructure and services programmes, Lisinge emphasises.
For rail transport, the ECA estimates show that Africa’s rail network is inadequate, but implementing PIDA and other planned projects will significantly increase its size. Implementing planned projects will increase the network by almost 26 500 km.
AfCFTA requires 97 614 wagons for bulk cargo and 20 668 wagons for container cargo by 2030. This increases to 132 857 wagons for bulk cargo and 36 482 wagons for container cargo, if planned infrastructure projects are also implemented, the commission says.
MARITIME AND AIR
Implementing AfCFTA would double maritime freight from 58-million to 131.5-million tonnes. Africa’s maritime network includes 142 links connecting 65 ports, accounting for 22.1% of intra-African freight transport. This will increase by 0.6% to 22.7%, if both AfCFTA and planned infrastructure projects are implemented, the commission's findings show.
AfCFTA requires 126 vessels for bulk cargo and 15 vessels for container cargo by 2030. This reduces to 121 for bulk cargo and 14 vessels for container cargo, if planned infrastructure projects are also implemented.
Additionally, the continent’s air transport network includes14 762 air routes, connecting each of the 121 airports with the others.
“Implementing AfCFTA would double the number of tonnes transported by air from 2.3-million to 4.5-million. In 2019, air accounted for only 0.9% of intra-Africa freight transport, but implementation of AfCFTA would double airfreight from 2.3--million t to 4.5-million t. Air traffic is therefore expected to double in 2030 compared to 2019,” the ECA says.
The AfCFTA aims to create a single continental market for goods & services. Negotiations are still ongoing on investment, intellectual property rights, competition policy and e-commerce.