Leaders, CEOs to Discuss Boosting African Transport Sector

ADDIS ABABA – The Economic Commission for Africa or ECA’s Africa Business Forum is set to bring heads of state, CEOs and more together to discuss boosting the African transport sector.

The Africa Business Forum or AFB, ECA’s flagship initiative, is scheduled to be held for the fifth time on Monday on the margins of the African Union Summit in Addis Ababa.

Experts say the sector is critical to maximizing the benefits of the African Continental Free Trade Area. (AfCFTA) which came into force in 2019 to increase intra-African trade by eliminating import duties.

The implementation of the Free Trade Area would lead to an increase in demand for intra-African freight of around 28% by 2030, compared to a scenario without its implementation, a new ECA study finds.

It also says share of rail services out of all modes of transport is expected to rise from 0.3% to 7%; thus representing a 20-fold increase in percentage terms.

Accordingly, Africa would require close to 2 million additional trucks, over 100,000 rail wagons, 250 aircraft, and more than 100 vessels by 2030, if the Free Trade Area is fully implemented; and Aircraft demand to support trade flows within West Africa will increase by 13.2% by 2030, the study projects.

Trade between North and West Africa, it says, would increase demand for aircraft by 12.9% while demand within Southern Africa will increase by 12.2%.

– Planning Needed –

The Executive Secretary of the ECA, Vera Songwe, said the ECA’s study showed that “reaping the full benefits of the AfCFTA requires integrated planning of trade and transport.”

“And it demonstrates tremendous investment opportunities in the transport sector. Leaders are meeting to discuss this potential at the Africa Business Forum,” Songwe said.

The Forum also plans to look in detail at air transport and tourism, which are both recovering from a financial crisis induced by the COVID-19 pandemic.

– High-level debates –

It is also expected to examine opportunities thrown up by the pandemic such as an increase in intra-Africa trade, a growth in domestic and regional tourism in some parts and the pivot to cargo transport when airlines were faced with passenger travel restrictions, the organizors said.

The fifth ABF, which will be held in-person and online, is organised under the theme ‘Investing in multimodal transport infrastructure to optimize the benefits of the African Continental Free Trade Area: a focus on air transport and tourism.’

Participants will have the opportunity to follow high level public-private sector debates on new market developments and opportunities which will enable the African transport sector to sustainably meet the new demand presented by the AfCFTA, said the ECA.