Africa > Africa Transport Challenges and Constraints

Africa: Africa Transport Challenges and Constraints





Africa Transport Challenges and Constraints

In spite of the efforts made by African governments and their development partners in formulating and implementing measures, polices, strategies and programmes to develop adequate, safe, secure and affordable transport system that supports efforts to eradicate poverty and bring about sustainable development, a wide gap still exists between planned targets and the level of achievement. This can be attributed to the numerous challenges and constraints that the region faces in relation to the development of sustainable transport systems. The major challenges and constraints include the following.

Inappropriate national policies and limited implementation of national, sub-regional and regional agreements

The lack of appropriate and well formulated policies and strategies as well as the slow implementation of sub-regional and regional agreements remain major obstacles to the development of sustainable transport in Africa. Many African countries do not have policies that allow and promote private sector participation in transport infrastructure development and operation. Liberalization and privatization in rail, air and maritime transport is still in its infancy. Efforts to harmonize policies and regulations pertaining to cross border movement of goods, services and people have not yet been effective, as many African countries have not fully implemented agreements aimed at facilitating cross border movement of goods and passengers by road and rail as well as the much anticipated and long overdue Yamoussoukro Decision in relation to air transport

Low transport network connectivity and poor state of network

In many African countries transport networks are characterized by several missing links within each country and between countries, forcing a significant percentage of the rural population to live without access to market and essential economic and social services. Coupled with the problem associated with the missing links in the road, rail, inland waterway and air transport system, a large proportion of the existing infrastructure is aging and in a poor state.

Inadequate human and institutional capacity

Although the number of workers in African public transport enterprises and agencies is relatively high, the availability of skilled personnel is limited in most transport organizations. As it is true for other critical capacities, managerial and technical skills are in short supply in Africa. In addition to lack of adequate skilled human resources, institutions that have appropriate powers and technical capacity to formulate, plan and manage infrastructure development and services as well as to regulate and enforce policies and regulations are lacking in many African countries.

Negative impact of transport on the environment

Despite the critical importance of the transport system in economic development and poverty reduction, it is also associated with significant adverse effects on the environment. The most serious environmental concerns usually associated with the construction of roads, railways, airports and seaports are the destruction of forests and other ecosystems including wildlife habitats; land degradation particularly through soil erosion on land adjacent to the infrastructure; and changes made on the drainage systems and geological formations.

Other typical serious environmental problems arising from transport operation include emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases from vehicles, trains and aircrafts, as well as congestion of streets and ports. The role of these emissions in causing air and noise pollution, ozone layer depletion and climate change, which in turn pose human health hazard and negative impact on the economy, is well documented.

High transport costs

Africa has its transport costs among the highest in the world. Transport services are unaffordable to many African citizens as transport costs are high compared to the average incomes of the citizens. Travel costs in African cities have a share of 21.7 per cent of GDP, compared to 14.3 per cent in Latin America and even lower in other parts of the world. Similarly, freight costs in Africa are significantly higher than the average cost in Asia. The high transport cost in Africa is mainly attributable to poor infrastructure, high fuel prices, aging and inefficient fleet, as well as limited completion and low level of trade volumes on some routes. The already high transport costs have been exacerbated in the past few years by the energy crisis associated with the high and volatile oil prices. Factors, including limited skills of managerial and operational staff as well as poor transport facilitation play significant roles in the high transport costs in Africa.

Poor transport safety and security

The prevailing poor state of road safety remains a serious challenge in Africa, as accidents and the resulting loss of life and destruction of property has assumed intolerable proportions. A major weakness in this area is the absence in some countries and the weakness in other countries of lead institutions that are responsible for road safety. Coupled with this, there appears to be a lack of consistent enforcement of traffic regulations. In most cases, the major constraint common to all the weaknesses in the management of road safety is the lack of adequate financial resources. The poor safety record of many African airlines is another area of major concern in Africa.

Poorly developed transport information systems

Statistical information is a key input at every stage of the development process, including in the planning and implementation of programs and projects. Adequate and well organized data collect and management system, statistical information provides tools for making informed decisions in identifying gaps, formulating policies and strategies, developing effective investment programs as well as for monitoring and evaluation. However, in Africa such data is at best limited and poorly organized. Likewise, despite the importance of ICT in facilitating decision making through rapid data processing, storing, retrieving, transferring over long distances, the transport sector has not taken full advantage of the technology due to, mainly, lack of proper policy for the development of the ICT as well as limited financial and human capacity.

Limited Financial Resource: Despite efforts by African governments as well as their international and domestic development partners to mobilize financial resources for financing investment in transport infrastructure and maintenance of existing facilities, huge gaps remain between the demand and available resources. Sustainable transport development requires huge financial outlays to build infrastructure, provide energy-efficient and environmentally-friendly transport equipment, among others.

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