Integrating Africa through a reliable network of transport systems will open up the continent to hitherto unexplored opportunities touching on many aspects of the continent’s rich natural heritage.
With technology taking centre stage on the continent that is projected to grow the fastest globally, the logistical support systems including roads, rail and air transport among others will play an important role in ensuring that Africa does not miss the opportunities presented by the 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR).
One of the biggest transport corridor projects to be undertaken on the continent is the 225 kilometres Trans-Sahara highway from Assamakka, north Niger at the main border crossing with Algeria to Arlit, the uranium capital of Niger, which will connect Algeria to an additional four other countries including Nigeria, Tunisia, Mali and Chad.
With its completion, the highway will enable unbroken road transportation over 5,000 kilometres from Algiers to Lagos, Nigeria.
In addition, Algeria has completed its section of 2,700 kilometres out of the 4,500 kilometres fibre optic line from Algeria to Nigeria. Niger will also benefit from this communication infrastructure.
The Trans-Sahara Highway intersects with the Cairo-Dakar Trans-African Highway (TAH 1) in Algiers, the Trans-Sahelian Highway (TAH 5) in Kano, Nigeria, the Trans–West African Coastal Highway (TAH 7) in Lagos and the Lagos-Mombasa Highway (TAH 8) in Lagos.
Another mega-project that is meant to facilitate transportation on the continent is the Dakar-N’djamena-Djibouti Road/Rail Project. This system spans 8715 kilometres of combined road and rail. Some segments of the system will be constructed in Burkina Faso. The project is expected to take six years once construction kicks off in 2022 in Senegal.
Spanning ten countries, the road and rail component will see the construction/ renovation of the road connecting Dakar and Djibouti while combining two Trans-African Highway (TAH) Programme initiatives, the TAH 5 (Dakar to N’djamena) and the TAH 6 (N’djamena to Djibouti). This project is estimated to cost US$2.21 billion for the road link and US$5.95 billion for the rail section.
In Central Africa, the 3,800 km Central African Interconnection line is expected to connect the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to South Africa through Angola, Gabon and Namibia. The line, which will be for both people and goods transportation, will also connect Equatorial Guinea, Cameroon and Chad.
According to the African Union Development Agency (AUDA), the Douala-Bangui / Douala-Ndjamena Corridor seeks modernising the highest priority multimodal African Regional Transport Infrastructure Network (ARTIN) corridor in Central Africa. Its completion will facilitate travel for people and goods expanding trade opportunities between Cameroon, Chad and the Central African Republic.
In addition, the Central Africa Hub Port and Rail Programme looks into the future and seeks to address capacity problems in Central African ports through the development of a regional hub port and rail linkage master plan with port expansion.
On air transport, the Comoros is involved in the continental Single African Sky programme which was launched in 2008. This programme is meant to create a high-level, satellite-based air navigation system for the African continent.
With the system which liberalises air travel in Africa, the Comoros, one of the Small Island Developing States will reap from increased travel injecting foreign exchange into its economy.
Booming tourism would be a boost to the nation of 832,322 people.
The African Union notes that the aviation industry currently supports eight million jobs in Africa. This means that with liberalised travel, the Comoros will benefit more from the enhanced connectivity while facilitating trade and tourism.
With this, other aspects of the island nation’s economic sectors will also benefit from the ripple effect of FDI.
Among the signatories to the Single African Sky programme in addition to the Comoros are Kenya, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Guinea, Liberia, Mozambique, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Swaziland, South Africa, Togo and Zimbabwe.
Others are Gabon, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Morocco and Egypt.
With it, there will be liberalisation of civil aviation in Africa which will enhance connectivity while spurring trade and tourism. It is expected to bring about job creation expanding the opportunities for the continent whose majority population is the youth.
AUDA says the project entails the construction of a fixed crossing linking Kinshasa in the DRC with Brazzaville in the Republic of Congo. In Congo, the Pointe Noire, Brazzaville/ Kinshasa, Bangui, N’djamena Multimodal Corridor will resuscitate river transport in the Congo-Ubangi River Basin while modernising road transport along the corridor.
Côte d’Ivoire will also benefit from the Central African Interconnection Transmission Line Project. The 3,800 km transmission line system is made up of four segments and spans West, Central and Southern Africa.
The Abidjan-Lagos Coastal Corridor will modernise the ARTIN corridor in West Africa facilitating trade, One-Stop-Border-Posts (OSBPs) and capacity enhancement and implementation of public-private partnerships (PPP).
Marine transport and connection between the island and mainland countries will be through the Praia-Dakar-Abidjan Multimodal Corridor. This will create a new maritime service between regional ports while facilitating it with a modern information system linking the maritime service with ports and road corridor in the Dakar-Abidjan Corridor.
The island nations of West Africa include Cape Verde off the coast of West Africa and Sao Tome and Principe off the southwestern seaboard; further out in the Atlantic Ocean are the islands of Malabo and other smaller islands of Equatorial Guinea.
The Northern Multimodal Corridor will modernise the ARTIN by having climbing lanes and urban bypasses in East Africa. Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda will be the biggest beneficiaries of this programme through improved travel of people and goods across the borders.
Egypt is also a beneficiary of the Trans-Maghreb Highway (TMH) project which improves travel for people and goods across the Maghreb countries.
The project will have a smart corridor system implemented along the highway with OSBPs.
Morocco is another beneficiary of the TMH as well as the Single African Sky programme which contributes to the implementation of the Yamoussoukro Decision on civil aviation.
Ethiopia is one of the beneficiaries of the 8,715 km road/rail project entailing the combining of the Trans-Maghreb Road Corridor (TAH 5) from Dakar to N’djamena and the TAH 6 from N’djamena to Djibouti. There will also be the construction of a Navigational Line between Lake Victoria and the Mediterranean Sea Project focusing on water management and intermodal transport.
Modernising the Dakar-Bamako Rail Line project will improve connectivity and intra-African trade between Dakar (Senegal) and Bamako (Mali), and other countries while promoting regional integration. This will help engender new economic spin-offs and opportunities through rail spurs.
Mauritania will also benefit from the Trans-Sahara highway once the missing link from Assamakka to Arlit at a cost of US$102 million is complete. This project is aimed at facilitating seamless road transportation of goods and people over a distance of 5,000 from Algiers to Lagos.
The Southern African region has a challenge developing sufficient port capacity which can handle future demand—both domestic and for the landlocked countries. The region has come up with the Southern Africa Hub Port and Rail Programme in response, creating opportunities for growth.
With these linkages, the continent stands to benefit the most from intra-African trade than it currently does.
In addition, these developments will greatly enhance the implementation of the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) which is hailed as a panacea to Africa’s decades-long trade deficits.