5 Solutions to Africa’s Transport and Communication problem

  • Trans-African highways: African countries have proposed to construct highways across the continent. These highways are intended to improve the quality and volume of international road traffic in Africa. The principal axis is supposed to be from Gaborone to Cairo and from Mombasa to Dakar.

  • International Railways: The presence of landlocked countries in Africa has made railway transport an attractive mode for transporting bulky raw materials to coastal seaports.
  • Regional Economic Co-operation: The establishment of regional economic organizations has created conditions favourable to increasing the quality and quantity of transportation between neighbouring states. Regional economic groups in Africa include the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and PTA among others.
  • Establishment of National Airways: Since the attainment of independence, every African country has established her own national carrier airline. Existing airports have been expanded e.g. Dar-es-Salaam, while international new ones have been established e.g. Jomo Kenyatta.

  • Establishment of ground satellite: African countries have been endeavouring to improve on the existing telecommunications. Several ground satellites and radio and television boosters have been established to ease out communication problems.


The role played by the great lakes and St. Lawrence seaway in the economies of the USA and Canada

  • Boost to trade. After completion in 1858, it has enabled the two countries to have accessibility to raw materials like iron ore from Mesabi range west of lake Superior, wheat and timber from the Canadian Prairies

  • It has led to industrial development in the area. The production of HEP in the dams along the seaway has stimulated the development of industries like grain milling, saw milling, paper and steel industries.
The role played by the great lakes and St. Lawrence seaway in the economies of the USA and Canada
  • Improved navigation. It provides cheap means of transport along the 3800km stretch of seaway for both exports and imports thus encouraging internal and external trade
  • HEP production. The dams constructed along the route (like Iroquois, Beauhrnois, Moses Saunders, Niagara and Sault St. Marie) provide hydroelectric power for both domestic and industrial use
  • Development of towns. It has led to the growth of ports and towns like Montreal, Ottawa, Port Authur, Duluth, Prescott and Kingston along the route. These have become focal points for various economic activities.
  • Promotion of tourism. The seaway with some of the most beautiful and fascinating sceneries in the world is a tourist attraction that generates income in the region. Niagara Falls is a favourite site for tourists from all over the world

  • Creation of employment opportunities. The sea way has created employment opportunities in the transport industry and thus raised the standards of living of the people in the area.
  • The lakes and the dam area a source of water for both domestic and industrial use
  • The countries earn some revenue from charges levied on ships that use the route.


Limitations facing transport and communication in Africa

  • Some countries are landlocked and have no direct link to sea/ocean transport and international movement may be affected by political differences with countries they pass through.
Limitations facing transport and communication in Africa
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  • Other countries face Limitations of topography with rugged relief e.g. mountains with steep slopes which affect road, railway transport .construction of transport lines is expensive.
  • Navigable rivers in Africa are few. Most rivers fluctuate in their volume seasonally thus making them not suitable for transport.
  • Most areas are uninhabited land e.g. semi-deserts and deserts –these areas are low in population and it is uneconomical to construct transport and communication facilities
  • The Thick vegetation; thick forests and swamps in most parts of Africa make it and expensive to construct transport facilities
  • Africa also faces the challenge of inadequate communication facilities like satellites and internet facility. International news is received through western media houses like CNN, BBC or Reuters. Some countries totally lack internet facilities.

  • Many countries have been bedeviled by recurrent civil wars which have resulted in mass destruction. For example, Burundi, Rwanda, DRC, Somalia and Mozambique.
  • Different railway and road systems caused by land fragmentation by the colonial governments. Infrastructural links in Africa are unconsolidated with railway lines differing in gauges and differing traffic laws on roads.
  • Inadequate capital to invest in the transport sector has hampered the improvement and maintenance of the roads and other facilities.
  • High fuel costs.
  • Language barrier.
  • Poor technology and shortage of skilled labour.

  • Political barriers; animosity between countries and political instability hinder cooperation.
  • Security. Increased terrorist activities.


Role of transport and communication in the economic development of Africa

  • Promotes industrial development. Means of transport influence the location of a given industry as they influence raw material availability, labour mobility and market accessibility for finished goods. Accessible areas are likely to attract more industrial establishments.
Role of transport and communication in the economic development of Africa
Photo by James Wheeler on Pexels.com

  • Promotes local and international trade. Expanded transport and communication in Africa has opened new trade areas and markets and encouraged mass production. Trade within Africa and the rest of the world has been enhanced by improved transport.
  • Promotes tourism. Air transport is instrumental in transporting tourists to various game parks throughout Africa. Other tourists visit Africa via cruise ships.
  • Opens up remote areas for exploitation. Remote areas with vast forest and mineral resources have been opened up for exploitation through the establishment of transport and communication networks.
  • Enhances interaction among people. The development of transport and communication has increased human contact thus leading to exchange of technology and promoting understanding among people.
  • Creation of employment opportunities. Transport and communication are themselves individual industries that employ millions of people in sera routes, air routes, rail lines and roadways.
  • Development of urban centres. Some towns develop along major highways while others develop at road junctions.

  • Promotion of national image. In some countries, the government operates national airlines to promote the image of the countries e.g the Kenya Airways, Ethiopian Airlines and air Nigeria.



Railway transport is a means of conveyance of passengers and goods, by way of wheeled vehicles running on rails. It is also commonly referred to as train transport.


Huge Capital Outlay

The railway requires is a large investment of capital. The cost of construction, maintenance, and overhead expenses are very high as compared to other modes of transport.

Moreover, investments are specific and immobile. In case the traffic is not sufficient, the investments may mean the wastage of huge resources.

Unsuitable for Short Distance and Small Loads

Railway transport is unsuitable and uneconomical for a short distance and small traffic of goods.


As railways require huge capital outlay, they may give rise to monopolies and work against public interest at large. Even if controlled and managed by the government, lack of competition may breed inefficiency and high costs. 

Centralized Administration

Being the public utility service railways have a monopoly position and as such, there is centralized administration. Local authorities fail to meet the personal requirements of the people as compared to roadways

No Rural Service

Because of huge capital requirements and traffic, railways cannot be operated economically in rural areas. Thus, large rural areas have no railway service even today. This causes much inconvenience to the people living in rural areas. 

 Lack of Door to Door Service

Rail transport cannot provide door-to-door service as it is tied to a particular track. Intermediate loading or unloading involves greater cost, more wear and tear, and wastage of time.

 Lack of Flexibility

Another disadvantage of railway transport is its inflexibility. Its routes and timings cannot be adjusted to individual requirements.



Air transport is a mode of transportation that involves the transportation of goods and passengers by the use of airplanes, helicopters, and other types of aircraft. Air transport is the most recent mode of transport. It is the gift of the 20th century to the world. 


High Costs

Air transport is a costly service. Its operational costs are too high. Middle class and poor people can not affect its cash.

More Risks

Air transport is prone to accidents. A small mistake can be very dangerous for passengers. Hijacking of planes is easily possible.

Huge Investments

For creating aviation facilities, huge investments are required. The cost of airplanes, construction, and maintenance of aerodromes and control mechanisms needs a capital expenditure.


Most of the air transport is uncertain because these are controlled by weather conditions. It is seriously affected by adverse weather conditions. Fog, snow, and heavy rain weather may cause the cancellation of some flights.

Small Carrying Capacity

The air crafts have a small carrying capacity and therefore these are not suitable for carrying bulky and cheaper goods. the load capacity cannot be increased as it is found in the case of rails.


water transport is the movement of people and goods by boats, ships, barge or sailboat across ocean, sea, lake, canal or river or through other modes of water transportation

advantages of water transport

it has Larger Capacity

It can carry much larger quantities of heavy and bulky goods such as coal, and, timber, etc. 

for example, Tanzania is able to import tonnes of oil and other products from the middle east, India, and china through water transport.

this would not be possible if they were done through another mode of transport such as roads, railway, and air transport

it offers Flexible Service

It provides a much more flexible service than railways and can be adjusted to individual requirements.  

it is more Safe

The risks of accidents and breakdowns, in this form of transport, are minimum as compared to any other form of transport.   

Low Cost

Rivers are a natural highway that does not require any cost of construction and maintenance.

Even the cost of construction and maintenance of canals is much less, or they are used, not only for transport purposes but also for irrigation, etc.

Moreover, the cost of the operation of inland water transport is very low.

Thus, it is the cheapest mode of transport for carrying goods from one place to another.

Less Maintenance Cost

Maintenance cost in rail and road transport is quite high but the maintenance cost of water transport is quite less.

Useful During Natural Calamities

During natural calamities like flood and rains, when rail and road transport is disrupted, relief operations can be operated through water transport.

boost trade between countries

water transport has enabled countries far apart to conduct trade.

for example, countries like Tanzania and Kenya have been able to transport their agricultural products to China and India while countries like China and India are able to export their manufactured electronics and motor vehicles to countries in Africa and America many kilometers away.

source of foreign currencies to the country

water transport has been a source of foreign exchange for countries which owns port located in strategic areas such as Rotterdam port, Singapore port and Mombasa port in east Africa.

the ports are used to imports goods to land located countries and these countries pay taxes and port charges to countries owning the port.

for example countries such as Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi are paying port charges to the Kenyan government by importing their goods through the Mombasa port.

Water transport is the cheapest and the oldest mode of transport. It operates on a natural track and hence does not require huge capital investment in the construction and maintenance of its track except in case of canals


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