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Sub-Saharan Africa: Effects of Infrastructure Conditions on Export Competitiveness, Third Annual Report

Investigation No. 332-477
USITC Publication 4071


Poor infrastructure conditions in the land transport, maritime transport, and electricity sectors undermine significantly the export competitiveness of many sub-Saharan African (SSA) industries, according to the U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC) in its latest general factfinding investigation.

SSA governments and the private sector are pursuing government reform, increased investment, new applications of technology, and other strategies to improve infrastructure conditions, often in cooperation with neighboring countries, SSA regional organizations, multilateral institutions, and development agencies.

Prepared for the U.S. Trade Representative, the ITC report is the final of three annual reports concerning SSA exports.

In this report, the USITC examined conditions in the land transport, maritime transport, and electricity sectors; efforts to improve conditions in these sectors; and the effects of these conditions on the export competitiveness of several SSA industries, including coffee; shea butter; pineapples and bananas; natural rubber and related downstream products; textiles and apparel; leather; and tourism services.

The USITC found that:

  • Poor infrastructure conditions in SSA increase costs and export times and can compromise product quality, rendering both SSA merchandise and services exports less competitive than global competitors.

  • Poor infrastructure conditions also increase costs and add delays on the import side for necessary production inputs, such as textiles for apparel production in Kenya or chemicals for leather production in Ethiopia.

  • Many roads in SSA are poorly maintained and often unpaved, and truck fleets generally consist of aging fuel-inefficient vehicles that are often overloaded and contribute to further road degradation.

  • Rail networks in SSA are limited and generally even less reliable than trucks.

  • Excessive check points, burdensome administrative procedures, and inefficient processing at border crossings often cause long delays.

  • Most ports in SSA are inefficient by global standards and lack sufficient capacity, resulting in increased port charges, elevated maritime freight costs, and delays, all of which adversely affect SSA's export competitiveness.

  • Electricity infrastructure in SSA is among the least developed, least accessible, least reliable, most costly to operate, and, on average, highest priced of any region in the world. As a result, energy costs account for a higher proportion of production costs in many SSA industries, relative to global competitors.

  • Governments, development agencies, multilateral organizations, and the private sector have implemented a broad array of efforts to ameliorate infrastructure conditions in SSA.

  • Some SSA producers have been able to achieve higher returns in recent years despite infrastructure constraints.

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