Rail transport initiatives in Africa: Implications for improving intermodal transportation linkages on the continent
The growth of demand for freight transport services among African countries is likely to accelerate due to a number of factors which include the sustained effort by individual countries to grow intra-Africa trade, through the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), and the direct efforts to improve trade performance with global partners. The AfCFTA is expected to lead to a general increase in intra-African freight demand of around 28%, compared with a scenario without the AfCFTA. The growth of freight transport is likely to add more pressure to the land freight transport system which is already constrained by many bottlenecks which continue to suppress logistics efficiency and trade flows. This adds to the urgency with which Africa must confront the bottlenecks and inefficiencies affecting the land transport system.
Despite many potential benefits of rail transport in Africa, such as its mass transit capability, high productivity potential, energy efficiency, low cost to society, safety, space saving and sustainability; rail transport has not attracted a significant proportion of (both the continental and international) freight task as yet. However, as rail revitalisation and expansion gains momentum across the continent, it will be important to ensure early standardisation of institutional frameworks, regulation, technical designs, maintenance programmes, management and operating models of the rail system across the continent. Furthermore, it will be important to build into this process, interoperability and integration of the many rail links into a single continental rail system, and connectivity to the Trans-African Highway system, which also links up with key seaports across the continent.
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