Despite the large investments targeted at improving transport infrastructure across the country, insufficient investment in infrastructure maintenance over the years, coupled with rising traffic volumes and informality in the transport sector, have kept costs high and performance figures low. According to the World Bank’s logistics performance index from 2016, Côte d’Ivoire is ranked 95th out of 160 countries, with a score of 2.6 out of five. This puts the country below regional neighbours Burkina Faso and Ghana, which were ranked 81st and 88th, respectively, but above Senegal at 132nd and Sierra Leone at 155th.
With the return of stability and an increase in private and public investment, transport operators have been battling to handle increases in traffic volumes, linked to new business operations and rising international trade. This has affected most industries in the country. “The problem for a lot of transporters today is the handling of truck rotations. A few years ago, a truck would do eight trips in a day, and nowadays there are periods where they make three trips, at best,” Paul Uzan, managing director of COEX CI, a cocoa exporter, told OBG. “We’ve entered into a stable period, and that has prompted more investment, but with it has come a lot more congestion as well.”
Part of the problem in Côte d’Ivoire is also linked the tight competition that results from an insufficiently organised transport sector. Similarly to other markets in West Africa, freight transport companies in Côte d’Ivoire tend to be small operators, competing on pricing and using ageing fleets in which rules on maximum weight limits are often ignored. “In terms of road transport, the level of quality has not varied much, but in the past four years we have seen an increase of volumes for import and export of about 8%,” François Egon, sales and marketing director for Bolloré Africa Logistics told OBG. “However, we can’t say that there has been a modernisation of fleets on a global level. Most fleets remain obsolete,” he added.
Authorities in the country have been implementing a reform of the regulatory environment surrounding transport operators. One of the main priorities include renovation of the country’s aged transport fleet, with authorities having estimated the average age of vehicles in 2012 to be 20 years.
Improving transport service provision is increasingly important as domestic consumption continues to rise along with economic growth. The high headline growth – and the impact that this has had on consumption in the 24m-person economy – has attracted new retail and distribution operations, such as French retailer and supermarket chain Carrefour, which is in turn helping spark improvements in logistics depots and warehousing capacity. “These new transport and logistics centres are certainly impacting the transport sector. The market is tilting towards the modern distribution, and this will need better logistics,” Egon told OBG. Marseille-based sea transport firm CMA CGM, for example, announced in September 2016 it will invest €20m to build a new logistics zone in Abidjan to service its maritime operation in the country.
Besides the development of logistics areas by private operators, government-led projects are also set to improve conditions for transport of merchandise. One of the more relevant ones is the planned construction of a logistics operations zone to alleviate truck congestion at the Abidjan port. The project, estimated to cost between €38m and €50m, is included in the government’s private-public partnership plan, which aims to establish infrastructure across several sectors through the use of private investment and expertise. The 25-ha development will have parking spaces for between 800 and 1000 trucks, and will serve as a logistics area for freight leaving and entering the Abidjan port and ease connections with the country’s interior and also with neighbouring landlocked countries regularly served by the Ivorian port.
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