16 October 2008

Africa Translogistics ~ Vital Networks & Nodes!

Very interesting to read in the Economist this week about Network effects: Connectivity and commitment pay dividends in African transport. Current road and rail networks are ill-maintained, incomplete, and beset with roadblocks, bribe-barriers, and worse. Ports and freight-handling are similarly undercapitalized and constrained. But, as the Economist spotlights, bold businesses are dialing things up in Africa, including especially Bolloré, the French conglomerate...
As a port operator, stevedore, warehouser and freight forwarder, Bolloré handles 80% of west Africa’s exports (excluding oil) and 25% of east Africa’s—in short, nearly all of Africa’s cotton and cocoa, as well as much of its coffee, rubber, and timber. With offices in 42 African countries and 20,000 of his 31,000 employees based in Africa, Mr Bolloré is bullish on the continent’s prospects. Bolloré Africa Logistics accounts for $2 billion of the group’s $10 billion annual revenues. Its head, Dominique Lafont, predicts 12-17% annual growth for the division for the next five years. He believes better logistics are vital to reduce poverty in Africa. A new warehouse for perishable goods, or a new garage for repairing overland lorries, he reckons, create more lasting benefits to Africans than most aid projects do. Bolloré’s aim is to exploit the massive unrealised potential for trade between African countries by being the first to link the economies of the Francophone and English-speaking parts of Africa. It wants to do this by establishing a 26,000km (16,000 mile) pan-African network of “vital corridors”, making use of whatever infrastructure is available, with long sections of transit by barge down the Niger, Congo, and Nile rivers deep into the interior.
Most excellent!

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