Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Inter-African Trade


After reading the global trade perspectives of both madam T and Nir I was just wondering what you peeps think of trading between African nations. As Nir posited in his post, it is probably a very good springboard for continental prosperity. Presently only 1-5% (can u imagine?) of trade is done between African nation. Imagine raising this to 25-35% in five to seven years. The continent is diverse enough to form a formidable mosaic of interconnected markets like NAFTA, ECC or Mercosur (with Venezuela, Argentina, Bolivia and Brazil at its heart). Me think the first hurdle to overcome is infrastructure the biggest being transportation and electricity. I think an intercontinental free way that have been proposed from Johannesburg to Tripoli is one way, while a connection of existing national railway lines to facilitate freight will go a considerable way in eliminating the artificial trade barriers we have erected against ourselves. Perhaps a common import tariff, encouraging education across African borders (one is presently flourishing between Ghana and Nigeria albeit grudgingly since it is condition that is driving Nigerian students to Ghanaian Universities) are some other measures..What do u think? Please share your thoughts with us ..thanks!

11 comments:

t said...

OMG, we got pictures!!!

geon said...

Regional economic cooperation should be helpful, though I'd still say that developing strong local economies is the most important. Improving infrastructure over the whole continent, while desirable, will be very, very expensive. It might be wise to prioritize and start with projects that link up existing networks at relatively little cost or are along corridors that show particularly great economic potential. Oil-exporting African countries can invest some of their profits in regional infrastructure projects as oil prices rise over the next decade, or use them to establish a continental bank that can finance development projects. Privately-funded toll roads and railroads might also play helpful roles in some places, as in the 19th century USA.

t said...

It might be wise to prioritize and start with projects that link up existing networks at relatively little cost...
How?

Oil-exporting African countries can invest some of their profits in regional infrastructure projects as oil prices rise over the next decade

No and no.
1. It's so easy to do the wrong infrastructure projects. We obviously have for the past decades - misused oil profits.
2. Why will oil prices rise over the next decade? Is this a religious belief, or...

or use them to establish a continental bank that can finance development projects.

a development bank is a (VERY) good idea; however, it needs great people to make it work.

geon said...

finding capital for worthy projects is one problem, identifying and being willing to work on worthy projects are other problems. I was offering some suggestions on the first front.

t said...

I was just re-reading your comments here, Nir. I was being an emotional bull when I wrote "no and no." I apologize.

Privately-funded toll roads and railroads might also play helpful roles in some places, as in the 19th century USA.
Question: What do you think the "big thing" in transport infrastructure will be in a few years? Or what do you hope/imagine it will be? Mass transit bullet trains? Or the so-called $2,000 (personal) cars? Air transport? Or less transport? Or more bikes?
...Almost ten years after my first train ride, I still think trains are cool!

geon said...

Re. transport, I like trains too. I hope that subways will be the main way of getting around big cities, supplemented by cable cars, buses, bikes, motor scooters, pedicabs, rollerblades and so on. Fast trains would be best for most traffic between cities. Cars should be banned from cities, but are useful in the countryside where there is too little traffic to sustain public transit.

Unfortunately, what we're actually getting now in much of the world, especially in fast-growing Asian cities, is more cars.

t said...

are there incentives to reverse or stall that trend?

Do not underestimate the "cool" factor. Imagine a transport company that focuses on being seriously cheap or convenient or clean or cool/chic and has GREAT marketing!

Marketing: For some reason, cars are market-ed more aggressively than mass transit rides, so people aspire to have cars, but usually don't aspire to be able to take the bus, even if the bus has great features.

Price: like designing seriously low-cost personal vehicles that are also good socially - the idea of 15 million present-day small cars in Shanghai or Lagos is scary - so build something small, simple, sustainable, we already can't bear the cars we have.

Convenience: like having well-planned mass transit systems

Clean: being able to travel in a clean space, like my car, is worth to me a few bucks and screwing up the ecosystem or whatever

Cool: like if you got the rich and/or famous to ride your train, maybe lots of others would (aspire to) use the same. Like in some circles, hybrid vehicles are considered cool (though probably in a few small isolated circles)

I don't know about how bulk stuff gets moved around, though, and that is probably where the bigger challenges and opportunities lie. Any experts on large-scale transport? Any non-experts?

geon said...

far be it from me to figure out how to make something cool... I think a big part of it though is "build it and they will come" - for example, riding the subway is cool in Manhatten largely because it's easy and fast, while driving (not to mention parking) is difficult and traumatic.

t said...

Hmmm, the Manhattan story makes me think of Lagos. If driving in Manhattan is traumatic, driving in Lagos is absolute hell.

One of the solutions in Lagos is taking motorbikes, called Okada - because there was a Nigerian airline company called Okada, and those bikes let you "fly" by weaving through the traffic. Lately, the Okada drivers are starting to wear helmets. You get the idea, it's not the safest thing in the world.

I like the buses personally (not the monster "Molue" buses, but the smaller twelve seat types) but only because I usually have a lot of time on my hands; as a daily commute, or for business, the "go-slow" or traffic, the survival-of-the-fittest struggle to enter the buses... would be unbearable.

geon said...

definitely sounds like Lagos needs better public transport... the motorbikes can also be seen in Paris - they're cute, as long as you're watching from a safe sidewalk vantage point.

t said...

Thanks, Lola, for the tip on this post at Naijablog:
Lagos Metro Imagined, with dozens of comments. I'll put my money on best-in-class train system in less than 10 years in some parts of Nigeria.

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