The African Continental Free Trade Area and Demand for Transport Infrastructure and Services

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The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement entered into force in 2019, and its implementation commenced in 2021. A major milestone in the continent’s regional integration, it aims to increase intra-African trade by eliminating import duties. Its planners hoped to double intra-African trade if non-tariff barriers were also reduced. Inadequate transport infrastructure and services could hamper the realization of AfCFTA’s benefits. The urgent need to improve transport connectivity in Africa in the context of AfCFTA has created new research demands. This report explores the effects of AfCFTA on trade flows in Africa and asks how the AfCFTA signatories could reap the agreement’s full benefits through the integrated planning of trade and transport. Using trade flow and freight mode choice models, the report identifies critical transport links across the continent and provides estimates for the infrastructure required for different modes of transport—road, rail, maritime and air—because of AfCFTA. It also unpacks the transport equipment required for the different modes: trucks for roads, rolling stock for railways, aircraft for air transport and ships for maritime transport. The report shows that trade and transport are mutually reinforcing and that current infrastructure and services, in all modes of transport in Africa, require upgrading to cope with the increased freight under the AfCFTA. This underscores the importance of prioritising the implementation of the Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA), the Trans-African Highway (TAH) network and the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM).


UN/Economic Commission for Africa
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