Africa’s private sector has over the past few years often lamented that, the low zeal in engaging in intra-continental trade is a result of a lack of faith in the available transportation systems.
According to them, the requisite transportation systems to support economically sustainable trade is non-existent, or what is available is simply too costly and inefficient.
As such, experts are calling for increased investments into transportation in a bid to help create and enhance supply chains in Africa.
Given the stagnancy demonstrated by the continent’s private sector in the Free Trade era, investments into sustainable and efficient multi-modal transport systems are seen as a step in the right direction towards integration efforts.
The Secretary General for the International Chamber of Commerce Ghana, Emmanuel Doni-Kwame, a Senior Economist at the United Nations Development Program, Dr. Fatmata Lovetta Sesay and the Executive Director of Whitestone Shipbrokers Ghana and the West Africa School of Shipping, Gertrude Ohene Asienim are the latest to add their voices to this call on the Eye on Port TV program.
According to Gertrude Ohene Asienim, the issue of connectivity among African countries should be tackled as a matter of priority when it comes to efficient supply chain management.
She said governments should collaborate with private sector for the development of intermodal transport systems to support the Africa Continental Free Trade.
“We have moved from the age where production, distribution and carriage of goods were separate entities. Now, a customer expects door-to-door delivery of services. So, intermodal transport is necessary and should be promoted.”
She said developed countries who have succeeded in efficient supply chain management have practiced multi-modalism in transport.
Mrs. Ohene Asienim explained that by leveraging road, rail, air and water, the necessary synergies are harnessed for the efficient movement and delivery of goods.
The seasoned academic and chartered shipbroker emphasized that without developing these, there will be disruptions in supply chains.
“Someone was citing that you transport goods by sea to Nigeria in 3 days and you wait so many days at the port due to delays and congestions. It is so frustrating. Imagine having chartered such a vessel, you are going to accrue demurrage and other port costs. At the end, this is going to be added to the cost of the goods, and the ordinary consumer will pay for it. So it is important that these bottlenecks are removed and prioritized,” she pointed out.
The Executive Director of Whitestone Shipbrokers Ghana said Africans should expedite efforts towards its own coastal shipping systems so that goods traded along the continent’s coast are done in a faster, cheaper way.
She however cautioned that investment into transport infrastructure without the removal of non-tariff trade barriers will yield little results.
The Secretary General of the ICC Ghana, Emmanuel Doni-Kwame, added that Africa can by itself create the necessary transport infrastructure to support integration efforts.
“Dangote is building an oil refinery. One main by-product of an oil refinery is bitumen so we have enough bitumen to fix our roads. There are very good local contractors with the necessary equipment to construct these roads. So the excuse of finding foreign contractors, I do not buy it,” he said.
“We got to know that there are about 97 checkpoints from Lagos to Abidjan. If you have a direct road which is tolled for the investor, with just four stops, in each country with the latest technology to check our goods, goods will be moved much quickly as it pertains in Europe,” Mr. Doni-Kwame added.
He said through responsible public-private partnerships, Africa can secure its own transport systems to support integration efforts.
Dr. Fatmata Lovetta Sesay, on the other hand underscored that access to finance remains a bane for investors in the private sector, making it unattractive to take such initiatives.
She explained that investments into mechanisation and energy are critical for Africa to reach its productive capacity for trade.
The Senior Economist with the UNDP Ghana, also urged producers in Africa to collaborate when it comes to value addition and manufacturing in order to develop economies of scale.
She said research and the application of technology is key to drive the objectives of AfCFTA so far as the UNDP is concerned.