Chapter 1. The current state of transport infrastructure per developing country region1

There are various challenges and deficiencies related to transport connectivity in each developing country region, such as: missing highway links in Africa; under-developed inland waterways and poor maintenance of ports in Latin America; inadequate quality and capacity of road and ports in Asia; and low transport safety standards in Europe. In this context, there are numerous ongoing action plans and initiatives at the regional and sub-regional level to address these issues. A table that summarises the current state of transport connectivity by subsector and action plans per region can be found at the end of this chapter.

    

Africa

In Africa, deficiencies in transport connectivity infrastructure partly led to the low trade levels of the continent. In 2015, African exports only accounted for 2% of total worldwide merchandise exports. Likewise, intra-regional trade was also notably low at 18% compared to 52% in Asia (UNCTAD, 2017). Therefore, one of the priorities for Africa is to increase international and intra-regional trade to promote economic growth, development, and industrialisation through value chains.

Accordingly, many African countries have invested in transport infrastructure as a way to increase regional integration and intra-regional trade (AUC, 2015). According to the Infrastructure Consortium for Africa (ICA), African country governments allocated more resources to transport compared to other infrastructure sectors - on average USD 16 billion in 2014-2015 - although this includes urban and small-scale transport projects. However, the transport cost is still generally high, partly due to deficiencies in both hard and soft aspects in transport connectivity (PIDA, n.d.; ICA, 2017).

Concerning roads, the network across Africa, including long-distance and regional, is low density and poor quality, although the situation varies considerably across countries. While road is the main mode of transport, carrying 90% of passengers and 80% of goods, 53% of roads are unpaved. Furthermore, less than half the population has access to all-season roads, which includes urban and small-scale roads. This issue is exacerbated by vehicle overloading and inefficient road maintenance, particularly in least developed countries (LDCs), thereby causing road surfaces to degrade quickly and resulting in severe traffic congestions (AfDB, 2014).

Specifically, 25% of the Trans-African Highway (TAH) Network which was designed in the early 1970s to connect capitals with ten planned corridors (Figure 1.1) is yet to be completed. This is mainly due to the lack of funding for the central and southern sections of the network, owing to political instability and difficult climatic conditions. For example, roughly 3 000 km of roads in the TAH 08 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and 1 300 km of roads in the TAH 06 (N’Djamena-Djibouti) passing through Darfur in western Sudan still remain to be built or rehabilitated due to the civil war and political turmoil. In addition, some governments do not prioritise the construction, maintenance, or rehabilitation of certain roads. For example, TAH 05 is incomplete mainly due to the low priority accorded to the rehabilitation of the Cameroon section by its national road authority, since the route is mostly used by vehicles merely passing through the country between Nigeria and Chad (AfDB/UNECA, 2003).

Figure 1.1. Trans-African Highways
picture

Source: AfDB (2010), Infrastructure Deficit and Opportunities in Africa, ,https://www.afdb.org/fileadmin/uploads/afdb/Documents/Publications/ECON%20Brief_Infrastructure%20Deficit%20and%20Opportunities%20in%20Africa_Vol%201%20Issue%202.pdf.

Furthermore, there are only few railways in Africa while existing ones are characterised by outdated infrastructure and limited maintenance. To illustrate, there are on average only 2.8 km of railway tracks per 1 000 km2 of land, compared to an average of 50 km in Europe, 6.5 km in Asia, and 5.7 km in Latin America. In particular, 13 sub-Saharan African countries have no functional domestic rail networks, let alone cross-border ones.

With respect to water transport, African ports have inadequate capacity, especially in terminal storage, and are uneconomically operated. They also face significant delays caused by poor shipment procedures, high handling costs, and long processing time. These issues are exacerbated by the lack of efficient linkages between land transportation and ports (AfDB, 2014).

Moreover, air transport in Africa remains under-developed in terms of number and capacity of airports as well as the level of safety standards. In 2013, there were on average only 0.3 airports per million inhabitants, compared to 0.98 in Europe and 0.81 in Latin America. Meanwhile, the average capacity of airports, including the international ones, was only 250 000 passengers, compared with 1.7 million in Asia, 1 million in Europe, and 450 000 in Latin America (PwC, 2014). In addition, African airports are characterised by the lowest safety standards among all regions of the world, with one accident for 270 000 flights, compared to a global average of 1 accident in every 5 million flights. The development of air transport in Africa is also hindered by the limited liberalisation of air space across countries. In this context, African countries, particularly least developed countries, could significantly benefit from improvements in the quantity, quality and safety of international airport services (AfDB, 2014).

In light of these issues, the African Union Commission (AUC), the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), the African Development Bank (AfDB), United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) and Regional Economic Communities (RECs) established the Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA) with the objective of promoting Africa’s regional economic integration by building infrastructure and strengthening competitiveness in trade. Specifically, 24 transport projects are included in PIDA’s Priority Action Plan for 2012-2020 - all of which are transport connectivity - requiring a total investment of approximately USD 25 billion (PIDA, n.d.; PIDA, n.d.). Of this amount, USD 9 billion will be allocated to the completion of the TAH missing links as well as projects related to the African Regional Transport Infrastructure Network (ARTIN) corridors by enhancing gateways ports and air transport service. In this context, the AfDB, as the executing agency for the management of PIDA, established an infrastructure fund called Africa 50, in order to leverage private investments for high-impact infrastructure projects (Africa 50, 2018).

To be specific, completing the TAH missing links includes the upgrading of 1 500 km of earth track between Chad and Sudan and the construction and rehabilitation of 2 000 km of paved roads in Algeria and Niger. In phase I of the programme, the TAH 02 (Algiers-Lagos) and TAH 06 (Ndjamena-Djibouti) are expected to be completed. Once the latter is finished, coupled with the existing TAH 05, the highway will connect six capital cities from Dakar to Djibouti, thereby allowing better access to Central African capitals (PIDA, 2017). In fact, filling the missing links of the TAH 06 is one of the nine key infrastructure projects in Africa under the Presidential Infrastructure Champion Initiative, to be implemented within five years (AUC/NEPAD, n.d.).

Furthermore, the eight RECs in Africa are dedicated to co-ordinate connectivity projects within their respective sub-regions. The Economic Community of West African States and EAC, for instance, develop common policies to harmonise transport standards and regulations among the member countries in order to provide security in transportation and to ensure smooth movement of goods and people. In general, RECs have been central to the co-ordination and implementation of major projects and programmes in the sub-regions and continent - including the African Union’s Agenda 2063 (EAC/NEPAD, 2008; UNOSAA, 2017).

Finally, the need for better transport connectivity is also featured prominently in the AfDB’s “Feed Africa: An Action Plan for African Agricultural Transformation”, which is a development strategy focused on diversifying African economies and unlocking its agricultural potential. More specifically, the Feed Africa strategy emphasises the need to increase investment in hard and soft transport infrastructure and to alleviate logistical constraints in agro-processing zones and corridors. Likewise, it stresses the importance of African governments to pursue transport policies aimed at fostering Africa’s insertion into global value chains, while emphasising the requirement to add value to exports through agricultural industrialisation (AfDB, 2016; NEPAD, 2017).

Asia

In contrast with Africa and Latin America, intra-regional trade among developing economies in Asia is relatively high - accounting for 53% of total merchandise exports in 2015. Developing Asian countries also accounted for 37% of worldwide merchandise exports. The significant share of trade is partly due to more transport infrastructure and the higher degree of regional integration in Asia, which makes border crossing easier and logistics costs lower (AsDB, 2015; UNCTAD, 2017). Nevertheless, the relatively low quality of connectivity infrastructure and its insufficient capacity to meet the fast-growing demand remain challenges for the region, especially for landlocked developing countries, which are unable to diversify their economies due to high transportation costs (UNESCAP, 2015). According to Asian Development Bank (AsDB), developing countries in Asia will need an annual investment of USD 560 billion for transport in general from 2016 to 2030 to maintain its growth, reduce poverty, and respond to climate change (AsDB, 2017). In particular, Bhattacharyay et al (2012) estimated that approximately USD 13 billion per annum would be required for regional or sub-regional transport projects between 2010 and 2020.

More specifically, many road links and corridors in Asia need to be upgraded and better maintained. For instance, while the Trans-Asian Highway Network comprises 143 000 km of roads across 32 countries, the share of Primary and Class I roads was only 32% in 2012, while more than two thirds were Class II roads or below2 (UNESCAP, 2014). In this context, the low quality of roads is a major cause of crash incidences and road fatalities in Asia.

Furthermore, rail links are often missing in Asia due to difficulties in harmonising gauges and rolling stocks across several countries. In this context, although the region comprises some of the longest railway networks in the world, notably in China, Russia, and India, railway density was at roughly 6.5 km per 1 000 km2 in 2011, compared to roughly 50 km for Europe (UNESCAP, 2014). As such, several plans to build cross-border rail to fill the missing links, particularly in the region of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and in landlocked developing countries, have been developed under the TAR Network (Figure 1.2), which currently comprises 118 000 km of railway lines (AsDB, 2015; ASEAN, 2016).

Figure 1.2. Part of the Trans-Asian Railway (TAR) Network
picture

Source: UNESCAP (2016), Trans-Asian Railway Network Map, http://www.unescap.org/resources/trans-asian-railway-network-map.

In particular, rail links in Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan were generally constructed in the north-south direction during the Soviet Union era, in order to deliver raw materials from this region to Russia for processing and then to markets in Moscow. However, the freight and passenger patterns have changed - there is growing demand for east-west lines to connect these countries with each other and to China, Middle East and Europe (Otsuka, 2001).

As far as water transportation is concerned, trade through ports in Asia accounted for a large proportion of the international volume, particularly in South and Southeast Asia. However, insufficient capacity, operational deficiencies, and shallow depth are becoming growing issues for Asian ports, which face increasing demand (South China Morning Post, 2015). In addition, one of the main priorities for Asia lies in connecting sea ports to land transport corridors in order to stimulate trade across the continent, including landlocked countries (AsDB, 2015).

On air transport, traffic in most airports currently exceeds planned capacity both in terms of people and goods, despite having the capacity to accommodate on average 1.7 million passengers. This is exacerbated by the low number of airport per million inhabitants of 0.22, which is even lower than the rate for Africa (0.3) and Latin America (0.8), as mentioned above. As such, there are significant congestion-related delays with only 57% of departures from developing country Asian airports leaving on time. Thus, building more airports across the continent is one of the priorities for Asia (PwC, 2014).

In this context, many sub-regional projects, programmes and strategies have been established to tackle the various issues of transport connectivity, such as projects in the Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS) corridors, the South Asia Sub-Regional Economic Co-operation (SASEC) programme, and the Central Asia Regional Economic Co-operation (CAREC) Programme - which proposed six multi-modal corridors comprising 47 100 km of roads. In particular, it is estimated that approximately USD 13 billion per annum would be needed for these projects between 2010 and 2020 (Bhattacharyay et al, 2012). Likewise, the South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation has established its Multimodal Strategy and ASEAN has developed a new Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity for projects up to 2025 which also require significant amounts of funding (AsDB, 2015).

Latin America

Latin America accounts for a higher proportion of worldwide merchandise exports than Africa; however, it has low intra-regional trade of approximately 18% (UNCTAD, 2017). This is partly due to the deficiencies in its transport connectivity infrastructure, especially inland waterways and ports. Furthermore, Latin American countries have high logistics expenses, on average taking up more than half the price of delivered goods and accounting for 18% to 40% of GDP (WBG/ECLAC/IADB, 2010).

With respect to inland waterways, even though there is a high number of rivers with navigation potential (Figure 1.3), this transport mode remains relatively unexplored due to lack of political interest and financial resources (Santiago, 2011). For instance, while project “Hidrovia”—a plan by Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay to convert the Paraguay and Paraná inland waterway into an industrial shipping channel -was developed in 1997 with support from the IADB, numerous obstacles make its navigability sub-optimal. This is mainly because the agreed-upon Hidrovía Paraguay-Paraná regulations have not been incorporated into legal frameworks in many of the countries (ECLAC, 2009). Furthermore, there is sufficient scope for Latin American countries to enhance intermodal connections between waterways with other means of transport, particularly with railways (Santiago, 2011).

Figure 1.3. Rail network and main navigable rivers in South America (2005)
picture

Source: Wilmsmeier (2007), Infraestructura y servicios de transporte ferroviario vinculados a las vías de navegación fluvial en América del Sur, https://repositorio.cepal.org/bitstream/handle/11362/6325/1/S0700313_es.pdf.

Seaports, on the other hand, have been improved in Latin America after private companies started to operate them through concessions. However, there are still bottlenecks hindering their efficiency, mainly due to poor maintenance, insufficient depth of ports, and congestion. Likewise, evidence suggests that a significant proportion of ports in Latin America are reaching the limits of their capacity, particularly in Brazil and Columbia. These congestion and capacity issues are worsened by the lack of intermodal infrastructure to link ports to land transportation. Moreover, since the demand for port capacity is estimated to double every five to six years in this region, it is important to address these bottlenecks efficiently in order to respond to the fast-growing needs (WBG/ECLAC/IADB, 2010; Santiago, 2011).

In the case of roads, trade and mobility is hindered by limited regional and cross-border transport links, physical deficiencies at border crossing, and chronic congestion. This is exacerbated by lack of investment in maintenance and the absence of efficient road management systems (Jirón, 2013). In this context, road transportation costs account for approximately 40% of the goods in value terms within intra-regional trade. Similarly, the spatial coverage of road transportation in Latin America is 156 km per 1 000 km2, well below the world average of 241 km2. In terms of quality, the road network, including regional and cross-border roads, is also underdeveloped with an average percentage of paved roads of 16%, compared to a world average of 57% (ECLAC/UNASUR, 2012).

Furthermore, despite a renewed interest in railways, they also remain deficient in quantity and quality, with notable issues relating to lack of maintenance and gauge incompatibility, which hinders the integration of rail networks across countries. In terms of quantity, railway density remains at a low level of 5.7 km per 1 000 km2 for Latin America - compared to a European average of roughly 50 km and a worldwide average of 9.5 km (UNESCAP, 2015). With respect to quality, long-distance railway lines in Latin America are unable to handle trains operating at full capacity, let alone larger and faster trains. In this context, rail freight accounts for less than 1% of South America’s international trade volume (ECLAC/UNASUR, 2012).

Regarding airports, the insufficient regulatory framework and lack of liberalised air transport services in the region limit the efficiency and scale of this mode of transport. Particularly, first, multilateral agreements facilitating cross-border air transport, such as Open Skies agreements, are still absent in Latin America; and second, market entry into the aviation industry is often limited. In this context, the average capacity is only 450 000 passengers per airport compared with 1.7 million for Asia and 1 million for Europe (PwC, 2014; WBG/ECLAC/IADB, 2010).

Accordingly, cross-border initiatives and plans have been launched in Latin America to address these deficiencies in transport connectivity. For instance, UNASUR established a Portfolio of Integration Infrastructure Projects (COSIPLAN) in 2013, with the objective of increasing economic, social and cultural integration by connecting and improving, inter alia, transport networks in South America. Of the 581 transport projects in this portfolio, 83% are national, 16% are bi-national and 1% is multinational (UNASUR-COSIPLAN, 2016). Likewise, the Initiative for the Integration of the Regional Infrastructure of South America (IIRSA) was launched with the aim of linking Latin American economies by integrating highway networks and inland waterways through soft and hard projects, such as the planned road links between Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname, and Brazil (IIRSA, 2008; WBG/ECLAC/IADB, 2010).

Europe

Intra-regional trade in Europe is relatively high, representing 67% of its total merchandise exports, with the total trade volume of this continent taking up 38% of international trade in 2015 (UNCTAD, 2017). However, this significant trade volume is mostly attributed to the developed economies in Western Europe, which stand in stark contrast with the 10 ODA-recipient countries in Central and Eastern Europe. The relatively low trade of the latter is partly due to their deficiencies in transport connectivity infrastructure.

Concerning roads, the density of national highways in the 10 countries is low - with the exception of Turkey, which has a high road density of 50 km/100 km2, excluding urban roads. The total length of roads in these countries is 760 000 km, while that in France alone is more than 1 million km. Furthermore, only around 35 000 kilometres or 5% are national roads, highways or expressways (Central Intelligence Agency, 2017). For example, the total length of express roads in Ukraine is 280 km, compared to 11 000 km in Germany and 7 000 km in France. In fact, only 88% of roads in the 10 countries are paved, while all roads are paved in most of Western Europe. This situation is partly due to insufficient funding and high per capita maintenance costs, owing to the relatively low population density compared to the Western European countries (Chernyavskaya, 2010).

Similarly, there has been underinvestment in cross-border railways (European Parliament, 2016), with different gauges and other technical characteristics among the countries yet to be harmonised. There are three different types of gauges across Europe - even within Central and Eastern Europe, countries like Belarus, Moldova, and Ukraine still adopt broad gauges while most of the other countries use standard gauges. Furthermore, the obsolete technical characteristics in rail infrastructure in some countries compromise the efficiency of their railway networks. For instance, only half the railways in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (“FYROM”) have been electrified, with even lower proportion in Serbia at 34% (Central Intelligence Agency, 2017).

Meanwhile, modernisation of port and airport infrastructure is still lagging, although the challenges and underlying reasons vary among countries. In the case of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the potential transit capacity of its three airports has been constrained by the lack of air navigation equipment (WBG, 2017). However, Istanbul Ataturk airport in Turkey ranks the eleventh busiest airport in the world with its rapid expansion of passenger volumes (Bloomberg, 2016). Concerning ports, the quality in Ukraine, for example, remains at the level of late 1980s in terms of their depth, handling and storage facilities, conditions of berths and equipment, as well as automation and computerisation (Chernyavskaya, 2010).

In this context, initiatives and programmes have been launched in order to enhance the transport connectivity between these developing countries and the rest of Europe as well as Asia. For example, CEI, an intergovernmental initiative comprising seven developing countries in Europe and developed economies such as Austria and Italy, assists its members in national and regional transport and logistics projects. It also promotes the alignment of CEI member states to EU standards in different sectors. It particularly supports the TEN-T (Figure 1.4), which is a set of planned highways, railways, airports and ports, by promoting specific action plans to harmonise transport policies in CEI member countries (CEI, 2014).

Similarly, the TRACECA programme - funded by European Commission since 2000 - also provides support to Trans-European Transport Networks (TEN-T). Its main objective is to enhance transport connection and strengthen trade between the EU and the Black Sea Basin and Central Asia region3, mainly by assisting in the implementation of regional transport policies and projects (TRACECA, 2017). In addition, there are projects that could further link Europe and Asia with a railway tunnel under the Bosporus in Turkey (International Institute for Applied System Analysis, 2016).

In addition to hard infrastructure, developing countries in Europe also need to improve the soft aspects of transport connectivity. For example, the level of safety, efficiency of passenger and freight services, energy performance, and environmental safeguards are yet to meet international standards. Specifically, the safety level of airports, which is much lower than average global indices according to International Civil Aviation Organisation, is a major concern for Ukraine (Chernyavskaya, 2010). Accordingly, it is important to upgrade and modernise transport connectivity in both hard and soft aspects in order to connect these countries with other parts of Europe, thereby boosting trade and economic growth.

Figure 1.4. Core corridors of TEN-T
picture

Source: European Commission (2018), Infrastructure - TEN-T - Connecting Europe, https://ec.europa.eu/transport/themes/infrastructure_en.

Table 1.1. Summary of current state of transport infrastructure per region

 

 

Africa

Latin America

Developing Asia

Developing Europe

Share of population

39%

7%

44%

10%

Trade

Intra-regional trade

18%

18%

53%

\

 

International trade

2%

2%

37%

\

Road

Quality (% of unpaved road)

53%

84%

21%

12%

 

Challenge

Low quality

Political instability

Difficult climatic conditions

Limited regional roads

Congestion

Inefficient management

Low quality

Insufficient to meet fast-growing demand

Low density

High maintenance cost

Railway

Density (km/1 000 km2)

2.8

5.7

6.5 (whole Asia)

50 (whole Europe)

 

Challenge

Low quantity

Outdated and low capacity

Lack of maintenance

Gauge incompatibility

Missing links in TAR

Gauge incompatibility

Underinvestment in cross-border links Obsolete technical characteristics

Port

Challenge

Inadequate storage capacity

Uneconomically operated

Significant delays

Unexplored waterways

Poor maintenance

Insufficient depth

Congestion

Insufficient capacity to meet growing demand

Weak linkages with land transport to connect LLDCs

Poor conditions of depth and facilities

Low level of automation and computerisation

Airport

Density (airports / million inhabitants)

0.3

0.81

0.22 (whole Asia)

0.98 (whole Europe)

 

Average capacity

250 000

450 000

1 700 000 (whole Asia)

1 000 000

 

Challenge

Low capacity

Low safety standards

Insufficient regulation

Lack of liberalised air transport services

Exceeding capacity

Congestion-related delays

Low safety standards

Lack of navigation equipment

Note: Data are compiled from different sources, with various years ranging from 2010 to 2014.

Source: See References below.

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Notes

← 1. This document, as well as any data and any map included herein, are without prejudice to the status of or sovereignty over any territory, to the delimitation of international frontiers and boundaries and to the name of any territory, city or area.

← 2. Primary class highways are access-controlled motorways used exclusively by automobiles. Class I refers to asphalt, cement, or concrete roads with four or more lanes. Class II refers to double bituminous treated roads with two lanes. Class III is regarded as the minimum desirable standards, usually described as a two-lane (narrow) road. Below Class III refers to road sections below the minimum desirable standard.

← 3. Countries include Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Moldova, Romania, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Turkey, Ukraine and Uzbekistan.