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Examine Alternative Transport

By Vision Reporter

Added 23rd May 2002 03:00 AM

AFRICA’S LARGEST trading bloc is meeting in Addis Ababa looking to boost the region’s free trade area.

AFRICA’S LARGEST trading bloc is meeting in Addis Ababa looking to boost the region’s free trade area.

AFRICA’S LARGEST trading bloc is meeting in Addis Ababa looking to boost the region’s free trade area. COMESA, the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa, of which Uganda is a member, comprises a market of 340 million people and a gross domestic product, GDP, of 170b dollars. It is meeting under the theme of promoting trade and investment in the body’s nine-member free trade area (FTA). It is hoped that the other 11 members, including Uganda, will sign up for the FTA. The FTA guarantees the free movement of goods and services, always a crucial element in a common market. But to optimise the movement of goods, there is a need to harmonise transport systems. At the moment, three quarters of goods within COMESA travel by road. In Uganda, the proportion is even higher. Road transport is expensive, because there are no economies of scale. There is also a hidden cost in the damage done to roads by heavy trucks. Cheaper transport can be found in railways. We did lose out a lot with the 1977 collapse of the East African Community as rail transport went into decline with the closure of the East African Railways. To have a system that links all 20 countries, we first have to harmonise the gauge of the rail tracks, since East African tracks vary in size from Southern African ones. Uganda and Kenya have also long considered extending the oil pipeline beyond the border. At the moment it stops in Eldoret, but the beneficiaries would be many more. Oil shipments currently form the biggest volume of trade in the lorries plying Kenyan, Tanzanian, Ugandan, Rwandan, Burundi and eastern Congolese roads. Air transport is also relatively underdeveloped as there are limited direct links between major commercial centres in the region. Ends

Examine Alternative Transport

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