Region’s Ports Vital Conduit for Africa-Asia Trade Development
Reciprocal growth opportunities as UAE builds on regional hub status and emerging African powerhouse nations look to develop world-class port operations using successful UAE model
The continent of Africa will take center stage at the 2013 World Ports & Trade Summit, which takes place in Abu Dhabi from March 19-20, with a special focus session on day two of the event to examine opportunities in the region for both trade and infrastructure development.
Growth in seaborne trade between China and Africa is already benefiting UAE ports, as the world’s third largest economy and the emerging African continent rely on the Emirates’ trading gateway status, further boosted by growth in bilateral trade between South Africa and the UAE, which was valued at almost US$2 billion in 2011.
“In the first decade of the millennium, trade between African countries and the GCC jumped by 270% to reach more than US$18 billion per annum, and this shows no sign of slowing down with added impetus – particularly from the UAE - generated by government and private sector investment interest in West (WSTC) and Central Africa, following successful forays into East, South and North Africa,” said Chris Hayman, Chairman of Seatrade.
The Africa Focus, which will take place on Wednesday 20th March, features a two-in-one session that will examine port development and trade opportunities in Africa.
Held under the patronage of H.H. General Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, WP&TS is an annual calendar event for global economists, port authorities, terminal operators, shipping companies, global cargo owners and investors, the two-day summit will take place at the five-star St Regis Saadiyat Island Resort.
Global terminal operators are also helping to close the US$48 billion infrastructure gap which, according to transportation expert Dr John Tambi of The New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), has seen infrastructure development pay off with over 50% growth performance for the continent, and offering more competitive goods pricing, previously driven up by weak transportation links.
According to HE Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi, UAE Minister of Foreign Trade, the Emirates is keen to expand its Africa remit and is eyeing the continent for opportunities in the areas of transportation, logistics and ports services among other sectors with a number of UAE companies such as DP World, which now operates and/or owns five ports from Algeria to Senegal, making significant investments in burgeoning markets.
“Governments in Africa are also keen to capitalize on the UAE’s own infrastructure example – and its expertise in delivering on port efficiency and developing finely tuned operations that support economic growth rates,” said Hayman.
Increased vessel sizes and associated operational costs mean that fast tracking cargo movement whilst in port is a priority for international shipping companies, in turn driving a new level of terminal activity which requires capacity and operational maximization.
Port utilization in the region is predicted to grow from 70 to 80% over the next decade as consumer growth continues, especially in West Africa, and as global operators develop their operations and efficiency improves.
Drewry Shipping Consultants reports strong growth prospects for container trade, particularly in North Africa, and new potential for port operators on the South and East coast where PPP models are being touted by countries such as Kenya and South Africa. Kenya is also a key access provider for its land-locked African neighbors while Drewry also points to Senegal, Nigera and Angola as ‘ones to watch’ as West Africa’s infrastructure framework takes shape.