Industry News

Africa has become a bright spot in container shipping


A BRIGHT for container shipping in a challenging year has been Africa, something experts believe will be spurred on in the coming years by the creation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), the world's largest free trade area.

Containerized imports into Africa in the first seven months of this year grew by 10.1 per cent in comparison to the same period in 2019 and by 6.7 per cent compared to the historically high 2022, according to Maersk Broker, according to Singapore's Splash 247.

The main driver of this increase has been the trade from Asia into the African west coast. The trade volume on this tradelane has grown by 20.9 per cent compared to last year. Volumes from the Middle East and South America into West Africa have also contributed to the increase.

Such growth trends are also visible in the deployment on the Asia - West Africa trade,where the deployed tonnage in October this year has grown by 22.3 per cent inTEU terms compared to the same period of 2022, according to data from Maersk Broker.

"Since most parts of Africa are experiencing rapid urbanization, we expect the demand for building materials, electronics, furniture and other containerized goods to continue increasing," stated the latest weekly container report from Maersk Broker.

Of all the trade lanes tracked by UK consultancy Maritime Strategies International (MSI) it is the Asia to Africa route that has experienced the strongest growth this year.

Describing the growth merely as "okay", Lars Jensen, CEO of container advisory Vespucci Maritime, suggested the numbers were not that remarkable.

The latest data from Container Trade Statistics shows that Far East to Africa has grown 15 per cent since 2019 which equals 3.5 per cent average annual growth, Mr Jensen pointed out.

"This is a trade which grew almost 7 per cent in2019 before the pandemic, hence okay growth but in essence just playing catch-up to the pre- pandemic growth trajectory," Mr Jensen told Splash.

Looking ahead, Jan Hoffmann, head of the trade logistics branch at the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development(UNCTAD), said the creation of a continent-wide free trade area would be a boon for shipping.

"By order of magnitude of the economic potential, Africa is comparable to China, India, or the EU. However, its economies are separated by 108 bilateral borders. It is here where the AfCFTA provides a double opportunity," Mr Hoffmann said.

The AfCFTA can also help with making ports more attractive for international liner companies, Mr Hoffmann suggested.

Remarkably today, according to data from UNCTAD, an estimated 35 per cent of African trade with the rest of the world passes through just one port - Morocco's Tanger Med, which is connected to about 40 African ports.

"The existing African ports need to raise their productivity, the ports' infrastructures need serious upgrades as cascading of larger vessels will require deeper channels, larger turning basins, stronger quaysides, and more productive equipment," commented Splash columnist Kris Kosmala, urging for more greenfield sites to be developed.

Data from Danish liner consultancy Sea-Intelligence shows many African destinations having in Q3 this year among the largest percentage increase in their connectivity compared to the same quarter last year with Ivory Coast leading the way, doubling year-on-year.

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