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Port of Durban likely to emerge as one of Africa’s major hubs – PwC

Johannesburg – Ports in Durban, Abidjan in Côte d’Ivoire and Mombasa in Kenya are most likely to emerge as the major hubs in sub-Saharan Africa, according to a new report published by PricewaterhouseCoopers.

It likened them to major facilities such as Rotterdam and Antwerp for Europe, New York and Los Angeles for North America and Singapore and Shanghai for Asia,

The report titled “Strengthening Africa’s Gateways to Trade: An analysis of port development in Sub-Saharan Africa” published on Thursday found that the three ports in South Africa, West Africa and East Africa are likely to become increasingly sophisticated due to their air links, proximity to highway networks and the internet as well as their access to a large hinterland.

Internationally, shipping remains the most important method of trade and they act as gateways for 80% of merchandise trade by volume and 70% by value.

South Africa’s ports outshine the rest of Sub-Saharan Africa’s and Durban is ranked 25th in the world in attractiveness. However, it only achieves 75% of the efficiency expected from a major global hub port.

Four of the eight largest bulk ports in Sub-Saharan African are located in South Africa. Saldanha in the Western Cape and Richards Bay in KwaZulu-Natal are specialist ports handling iron ore and coal respectively. Durban, the largest container port, also handles the third-largest bulk and break-bulk volume. SA’s other port is in Cape Town.

PwC states that ports are important infrastructure in attracting foreign direct investment (FDI) and these inflows were below average since 2016 in the continent’s two largest economies, Nigeria and South Africa, due to a number of factors including weaker commodity and oil prices as well as a drought. However, the audit and advisory firm expects this to improve in 2018.

According to PwC’s analysis, 25% improvement in port performance can increase a country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 2%.

 

Africa returns empty containers

Much of the economic trouble the continent faces can be seen through the situation at ports, as a microcosm, with the continent historically exporting raw commodities and importing the beneficiated products.

This has resulted in most African countries having a large imbalance in trade focused on commodity exports and manufactured imports which poses major shipping cost challenges. Sub-Saharan Africa imports are predominantly containerised cargo, while exports are mostly handled as bulk freight.

This trade imbalance which has greatly affected the continent’s economic chances, means that many containers return to ports abroad empty, thereby absorbing valuable port capacity and resulting in higher logistics costs for inbound traffic, according to PwC.

PwC urged African governments to improve port facilities, amidst rising commodity prices as the upgraded infrastructure will enhance the continent’s trade potential to export manufactured, semi-processed or agricultural goods in containers and countries would be able to expand trade in higher value exports.

Superior ports will also allow for higher volumes of intra-African trade, which currently stands at just 16%, a problem that the recently signed protocol towards a Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) hopes to address.

Transnet investment

Most ports in Sub-Saharan Africa are operated by governments and Transnet, a major state owned enterprise (SOE) in SA that separates the business into the landlord and port operation divisions, under the Transnet National Ports Authority and Transnet Port Terminals respectively.

PwC’s report found that Transnet in 2017 continues to invest heavily in port and freight infrastructure and ploughed almost R1bn in maintenance and acquisition of cranes, tipplers and dredgers in South African ports.

Investments are also being made in the Waterberg region in Mpumalanga to support coal exports and Transnet has also bought 1 319 new locomotives for the general freight and coal business.

 

Source – Fin24

 

Megabridge construction on N2 highway project to start later this year

The construction of two megabridges, as part of the South African National Roads Agency Limited’s (Sanral’s) N2 Wild Coast Toll Road (N2WCTR) project, is expected to begin between August and October this year, says Sanral’s bridge network manager Edwin Kruger.

“The tenders for the two bridges – the Msikaba and Mtentu bridges – are in the adjudication phase, which means we cannot comment on the value of the bridges and to which tenderer they will be awarded.

“With that said, the estimated construction cost of the bridges is in the range of R1.5-billion to R1.8-billion each.”

“Local contractors have not built bridges such as the Msikaba and Mtentu structures before,” adds Kruger. “As such, their skills will be supplemented by international contractors with the requisite experience. All the tenders received have large South African contractors, who of their own accord, have created joint ventures with international contractors.”

The last time a megabridge was constructed in South Africa was in the early 1980s, with the construction of the N2 Tsitsikamma toll road along the Garden Route.

“This project included the Bloukrans arch bridge, which today would probably cost in excess of R1-billion,” says Kruger.

The two new bridges will be funded from Sanral’s non-toll portfolio.

“All funding for national roads – except for toll roads – comes from national government,” explains Kruger.

“National Treasury allocates money towards this portfolio and has specifically allocated funds for the Msikaba and Mtentu bridges in the current three-year funding cycle.

“In the case of the N2 Wild Coast Toll Road greenfields section, as is the case for the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project, money for the bridges will come from a combination of national government funding and borrowing. Only the portion of the project funded from borrowing will be repaid through toll fees.”

The Msikaba and Mtentu bridges form the backbone of the greenfields portion of the N2WCTR. The toll road project is one of government’s 18 Strategic Integrated Projects, which were identified to support economic development and boost service delivery in the country’s poorest provinces.

“The greenfields section of the Wild Coast highway project extends from Port Edward through Port St. Johns. This section is a brand new road and without the bridges we cannot complete the highway,” notes Kruger.

The first phase of the project has already started with the construction of haul roads to the bridge sites, he adds.

“The N2WCTR project has full environmental approval and has been given the green light by national government.”

Location
The first megabridge will cross the Mtentu river, just outside of Xolobeni, and the second will cross the Msikaba river, near Lusikisiki – hence the bridge names.

As the first of its magnitude in South Africa, the Mtentu bridge will be one of the longest main span balanced cantilever bridges in the world, says Kruger.

Reaching heights of around 220 m, it will take over the title as the highest bridge in Southern Africa from the Bloukrans Bridge, with its 217 m deck height.

The construction of the 1.13-km-long bridge in a remote location is a major undertaking that requires specialised engineering skills and building techniques.

“The 580-m-long Msikaba bridge will cross the spectacular and pristine Msikaba river gorge and will be the longest span cable-stayed suspension bridge in South Africa – and possibly Africa,” says Kruger.

“Cable-stayed bridges are distinct in their use of towers and cables to support the bridge deck. This single span bridge will be anchored back into rock on either side of the gorge.”

One of the environmental requirements in building this bridge is that Sanral does not touch the unspoiled Msikaba gorge.

The cable-stayed design will ensure that the construction of the bridge will have no direct impact on the environment in the gorge almost 200 m below, notes Kruger.

“Since both bridges have a large concrete component, labour will be needed for fixing steel and placing the concrete for the bridges. Semi-skilled and unskilled labour will be sourced locally,” he adds.

Tourist Attractions
Pedestrian sidewalks will be constructed on either side of both bridges and view sites off the bridges will provide special viewing points for tourists.

These sidewalks will also serve to connect communities on either side of the gorges.

“The Msikaba and Mtentu bridges will become tourist attractions in their own right, and will offer opportunities for the associated tourism industry in the area,” says Kruger.

He adds that the term ‘megabridge’ – coined by the media – refers to a single bridge that costs more than R800-million to build.

“However, it should be noted that what we in South Africa call a mega structure, may be regarded as a medium structure internationally.”

It will take around three to four years to build the two bridges.

As the new route will be substantially shorter and flatter than the current route, it is estimated the N2WCTR will improve heavy freight travel time between Durban and East London by up to three hours, significantly lowering transport costs and carbon emissions, says Sanral.

The road will also increase mobility through an area that is currently isolated from the rest of South Africa.

Source : Engineering News

Africa needs to industrialise and exploit 4th Industrial Revolution – Davies

Trade and Industry Minister Dr Rob Davies said on Friday that Africa needed to industrialise and pursue larger blocs of regional integration for it to fully exploit opportunities presented by the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

“This continent needs to industrialise. We need to do that because the changes that have happened up to now meant that it was never a good thing just to be a producer and exporter of primary products,” Davies said.

“But the way things have unfolded in the past few decades is that the proportion of final products that is constituted by the primary product that’s in it, is the smallest part and the diminishing part of the final value of the product.”

Davies was speaking on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum (WEF) on Africa in Durban, wrapping up on Friday, with the summit featuring political and business leaders and civil society discussing inclusive growth on the continent.

Davies said that the Fourth Industrial Revolution, an era characterised by a fusion of technologies that was blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres, had created an enormous potential for technology to be used to solve a range of societal and business problems.

“All of this is happening in the context of major technological changes like robotics, artificial intelligence, internet of things and all kinds of digitised processes that are coming in. And they have, as I can see it, created an enormous potential for use of new devices and new technologies to solve a number of problems that have bedevilled development up to now,” Davies said.

“They do create opportunities to connect up with people a lot more effectively than before, and in some cases the barriers of entry to small companies into more advanced processes are being lowered, but on the other side the barriers of entry to workers into industrial processes are being raised.”

Despite this, Davies said the emergence of technology had created “winner takes all markets” and had the potential to perpetuate inequality.

“The theme of inclusive growth is fundamental. If we don’t have any inclusivity, we are already seeing in the world now the adoption of these new technologies, in the context of winner-takes-all markets innovators of technology win and those who are second and third get nothing, and that goes with huge increases in inequality around the globe and within countries,” Davies said.

“Finding inclusive growth models and addressing the social and economic together is going to be the way forward. But it requires that we address these things in multi-lateral cooperation because it cannot be done at national government level. We have got backlashes which are leading to much more mercantilism, it’s all about me and mine and not global good.”

Davies also confirmed that his department would be launching the new Industrial Policy Action Plan on Monday, to identify the stream of work that would help align South Africa with the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Source : Engineering News