Africa going strong
Many African ports are powering ahead strongly, which has prompted PricewaterhouseCoopers to have a closer look at some of Subsaharan Africa’s large gateways. Its analysis concludes that Durban, Abidjan and Mombasa are the region’s outstanding performers.
“Despite its size Africa only accounts for a small part of world trade,” according to a report recently published by a transport and logistics team working at the auditing and accountancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC). The international shipping industry is still the most important mode of transport for consignments headed for or from Africa, with the seven seas and thus the continent’s ports handling 80% of goods by volume (70% by value).
Even though South African hubs are becoming ever more important, PwC has nevertheless found that they still have a great potential for further development. Their exports were and still are dominated by oil, coal, iron ore, iron, precious metals, palm oil and timber. There has been a trend away from these traditional goods of late, however, towards the export of a more diversified range of products, including finished goods, amongst others.
Even if many African countries are keen to develop their own hubs in order to promote greater trade volumes, in the final analysis it is more likely that just a few gateways will eventually emerge as the dominant major hubs.
Thanks to hinterland connections
According to the report, three ports are the front runners in this regard – namely Durban (South Africa), Abidjan (Ivory Coast) and Mombasa (Kenya). They are likely to prove the industry leaders for the countries of Subsaharan Africa, and are expected to assume a similar role to that of the European hubs in Rotterdam and Antwerp, North America’s leaders (Los Angeles and New York) and Asia’s (Singapore and Shanghai).
Other ports in many parts of Southern, West and East Africa are said by PwC to be becoming ever more interesting too. This is said by the firm to be partially down to their geographic proximity to and the size of their hinterlands. Their formation in complex networks, including the internet, air links and highway networks, is ultimately likely to determine the emergence of three key African hubs, according to PwC.
Abidjan’s closest rivals are Lagos Apapa (Nigeria) and Tema (Ghana). Djibouti, as well as to a lesser extent Dar es Salaam, are Mombasa’s potential competitors. The final emergence of a competing hub could also be decided by factors such as local political stability, a port’s overall performance, and the quality of its hinterland connections.
Durban is the uncontested No. 1 of Africa’s container ports. If it manages to improve its specific performance parameters, then it will surely be able to significantly improve its throughput in the short to medium-term future. According to PwC’s analysis (foreign, not least Chinese) investment is of outstanding importance. PwC adds that a 25% improvement in port performance can increase a country’s gross domestic product by as much as 2%.