Inland transport represents 40 percent of the total cost of moving West African cocoa and coffee exports from their origin to their port of destination. With so many landlocked countries this is a multinational problem, one that must be confronted on a regional or corridor basis.
The port-to-rail link, the first major weakness, is often inhibited by conflicts between rail and port jurisdictions over rail segments in port areas. The lack of integration prevents effective operation of the container trade, as containers are loaded and unloaded in port areas, exacerbating congestion. Some of the most successful rail lines in Africa operate in national corridors where specialized rail and port facilities are vertically integrated. Spoornet coal and ore lines and Gabonese manganese ore are two examples.
Another key issue is the potential role of inland waterways and their effective integration into the regional road and rail network. The vast Congo River basin, as well as the great lakes of East and Central Africa, were once key elements of the regional transport network; even today they provide very cost-effective surface transportation. However, they have been in decline due to the considerable costs and delays associated with transferring freight onto barges from trucks and trains, operations made necessary because of the long neglect of dredging, signaling, and port infrastructure—all necessary to integrate waterways into national transportation systems.