There is no doubt that Africa has some of the largest potential for growth in the field of logistics. However, the continent must first update antiquated ports that have stunted the rate at which its logistics economy could grow. A lack of infrastructure and long ship waiting times have made African ports notorious for their lack of time efficiency and overall production. Take for example Douala, the major port of Cameroon, whose average cargo dwell time on average reaches about 22 days. Other such African ports such as Durban and Mombasa also experience large cargo dwell time, but nowhere near as much as that in Douala. By comparison, major ports in Asia and Latin America have an average cargo dwell time of less than a week. Despite the poor reputation that African ports have earned, a new wave of logistics investors are looking to drive the growth of these ports through new efficient technologies and necessary renovations.
One major issue that has contributed to the delays at African ports such as that of Douala’s is the shallowness of the ports. As a result of these ports’ shallowness, vessels large than 15,000 tons cannot berth them, and therefore goods must be transported onto the port via small ferries. With that being said, the Export-Import Bank of China has made a $675 million financing arrangement to build a new, up to date port at Kribi. This new port, 150km south of Douala, will have a 16 meter draught capable of handling vessels up to 100,000 tons. Cameroon isn’t the only African country that is attempting to revolutionize ports in the continent. Gabon, neighbor of Cameroon, had begun construction in 2013 for a new port in Owendo with a 13 meter draught. This port will be capable of serving container ships on one side and bulk cargo ships on the other. UAE-based Divers Marine Contracting estimated the project at a cost of $62 million. Furthermore in West Africa, the port of Lome in Togo has also made significant upgrades in its capacity and efficiency. This is evidenced in shipping line MSC’s launch of an eleven vessel service that travels from the port of Lome throughout Asia. Meanwhile in Eastern Africa, Kenya and Tanzania are jostling to be that region’s port hub. As a result of this competition, Mombasa port in Kenya looks to continue growing after last year’s record performance of processing 1 million containers. Despite the recent success of Mombasa, Tanzania is confident that they will be selected as the region’s port hub due to its construction of a new port at Bagamoyo. Tanzania says that Bagamoyo will it will be the biggest port in East Africa with the capability to handle double the capacity of Dar es Salaam. The project at Bagamoyo is estimated to cost about $11 billion with the majority of the funding for construction coming from a government owned Chinese investment firm.
With growing dependence on external trade, good functioning ports are a critical piece necessary for Africa’s growth. Over the first six months of 2015, most major African ports experienced an improvement in reliability and productivity, but some infrastructure deficits limited improvements in vessel waiting time. It will take some time in order to get things completely right for the field of logistics in Africa, but getting ports right will be a significant part of improving its trade efficiency as well as raising revenues. Things continue to look up for logistics growth in Africa also based on ambitious cities like that in Kigali, Rwanda who are creating container yards and warehouse facilities to store cargo crates and supplies. It shouldn’t be before too long that Africa will be contending with other parts of the world in the realm of logistics.