Freight Transport Technology: A Cost-Effective/Time-Efficient Solution to Sub-Saharan Africa’s Logistics Problems

  • David Burl
Part of the Palgrave Studies of Sustainable Business in Africa book series (PSSBA)


Centring on land transport, and focusing primarily on road freight, Africa’s key freight transport problems may be stated as follows: overloaded vehicles (per operating trip); under-utilised vehicles (per operating period); use of older vehicles; delayed vehicles at transit points (e.g., inland depots and ports); poorly trained vehicle operatives; low-quality local/intra-regional road networks; and high road freight transport prices. Inter-modal containerisation, via a process of freight unit standardisation, could contribute to the solution of many of these problems. For example, a standard (10 or 20 ft) container could be filled with a set quantity of standard plastic crates; this could result in high “unit load device” utilisation and prevent vehicle overloading (as containers are normally weighed before being loaded onto sea transport). Even oligopolistic pricing policies could be partially counteracted via the standardisation of the freight unit (and its component subunits) as it would result in more systematic and transparent tariff structures. All-terrain adaptations to road freight vehicles (e.g., tyres) could partially overcome a generally low quality transport infrastructure (Permanent ways comprise macadamised or concrete roads/routes). The alternative “route technology” development (which could, for example, promote the purchase of newer, more modern vehicles) has several disadvantages as an investment priority. Specifically, it is astronomically expensive—with a “time-lagged” return on investment. Furthermore, it is politically problematic and subject to a protracted, complex multi-agency decision-making process. In the short to medium term, better vehicles beat better roads every time.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • David Burl
    • 1
  1. 1.CAREEDPaisleyUK

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