As nation states and their international partners jockey for a share of passing trade, African ports are changing, says Rudie Basson, ports practice leader for Africa.
South Africa’s state-owned rail and ports operator Transnet has overseen vital upgrades over the last decade, including container facility expansions in Durban, Cape Town, Ngqura and Port Elizabeth. Against a climate of 8% GDP growth, these public works were readily funded. The sky was the limit.
The current slowdown has, however, created greater opportunity for public private partnership in terminal development to create new capacity, and safeguard transhipment traffic against competition from rival countries. The country needs to signal to investors that it will provide the stability they’re looking for.
On the Horn of Africa, DP World’s terminal at Djibouti is taking advantage of its position at the mouth of the Red Sea, the gateway to the Suez Canal, and its connection into Ethiopia via a 756km electrified railway. It is modelling itself as the ‘Singapore of Africa’. DP World’s concession at the Port of Berbera in Somaliland will add terminal capacity in the region. Further south, Mombasa in Kenya and Dar es Salaam in Tanzania are also expanding to attract bigger vessels, while Maputo in Mozambique is dredging the harbour from -11m to -14m with a view to boosting cargo to over 40Mt a year by 2043.
The Gulf of Guinea, on the west coast, is a hotbed of activity, as the major players open their ports to passing trade from the Far East. The city of Lome in Togo has led the way, now welcoming ships of up to 8500 TEU. But it will soon face competition from larger facilities in Ivory Coast, Ghana and Nigeria – although the spread of piracy in the Gulf will need to be curbed. The west coast’s rise has been matched by developments in the Mediterranean, especially Morocco, Algeria and Egypt, which are all investing heavily in new infrastructure.
Long discussed and now gaining momentum on the back of the terminal capacity being developed on all four African coasts are the transport corridors criss-crossing the continent. These will serve to increase trade with landlocked countries. Indeed, development of the corridors is accompanied by an increasing number of inland container depots being developed as local freight handling stations.