The significance of transport costs in Africa

Authors: Naud',W.; Matthee,M.

Produced by: World Institute for Development Economics Research (WIDER) (2007)

Available online at:

The success of Africa's exports, as well as its spatial development, depends on lowering transport costs. Using a case study from South Africa this policy brief concludes that Africa's international transport costs are significantly higher than that of other regions, and its domestic transport costs could be just as significant. Domestic transport costs also influence the location, the quantity, and the diversity of manufactured exports.
 Policy options include:  

  • making more investment in transport infrastructure, including roads, railways, pipelines, port infrastructure and handling equipment
  • paying more attention to the physical location of firms relative to ports. One way is for ports to be brought closer to firms. More 'dry' (inland) ports in Africa should be created. However, improvements in air transport are needed if firms are to benefit from close location to a port/airport.  Another way to improve location relative to a port is for careful planning of business parks and business premises in the proximity of ports
  • promoting regional integration schemes, including transit times, for landlocked countries. These integration schemes should specifically address the vexing issue of time consuming and frustrating border/customs controls. It is important that regional integration schemes integrate different national transport development plans into co-ordinated regional transport development plans, and place much higher emphasis on ensuring the safety and security of transported goods and operators.