A region striving for stronger integration needs an efficient transport system to facilitate trade and socioeconomic ties. Throughout Southern Africa, this network of roads, railways, ports, and airways currently meets the demand of most users. However, as industries and economies develop throughout the region, use of the transport network will exceed its current capacity. The Southern African Development Community (SADC) Regional Infrastructure Development Master Plan currently projects the following increases:

  • By 2030, traffic for landlocked SADC countries will increase to 50 million tonnes, ramping to 148 million tonnes by 2040 – an 8.2% annual growth rate; 
  • Port traffic will expand from 92 million tonnes to 500 million tonnes by 2027;
  • Port expansion projects at Dar-es-Salaam will only sustain shipment traffic through 2020;
  • OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, South Africa, will add two million passengers a year by 2030 and three million a year by 2040; and
  • Kenneth Kaunda International Airport in Lusaka, Zambia and N’djili International Airport in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, currently operate at 70% of capacity, but expect traffic to expand well over 100% of capacity by 2020.

The transport situation is similar throughout the rest of Southern Africa. With a vision of a transportation sector that supports vibrant industrial and social development, SADC has already prepared plans to address the increased pressure on the region’s transport infrastructure. In 1996, it passed the Protocol on Transport, Communications and Meteorology – a policy framework with agreements from Member States on sustaining a safe, secure, and reliable transport system in the region that enables increased development into the future.

The Protocol on Transport, Communications and Meteorology

The Protocol on Transport, Communications and Meteorology advises SADC Member States to promote an integrated, multimodal transport system throughout Southern Africa that remains efficient, reliable, economically viable, and environmentally responsible. This system is best realized through a harmonised regional policy on transport, with coherent frameworks for institutions and strategies for implementation. Therefore, Member States agree to cooperate on a transport network aimed at ensuring the free movement of people and goods through the region, particularly from landlocked Member States to seaports located in coastal Member States’ territory and vice-versa. Initially, cooperation will require funding by governments; however, the Protocol on Transport, Communications and Meteorology notes that much of the transportation infrastructure should become financially self-sustaining through private sector investment and user-pays principles. Consequently, Member States should cultivate an environment conducive to participation of the private sector in transportation infrastructure.

Moving Forward

Transport infrastructure throughout Southern Africa is more established than other infrastructural sectors. At present, most Member States of SADC maintain dedicated road agencies, while substantial improvements are underway for regional railways and air transport. In particular, three primary corridors – the North-South Corridor running north from Durban, South Africa; the Maputo Corridor running through Mozambique, and the Dar-es-Salaam Corridor in Tanzania – are the focus of most development. As these development corridors connect shipping ports to areas of industrial productivity, much infrastructure has been supplied by the private sector through public-private partnerships and user-pays principles. This system has proven effective, enabling road and railway development to commence where government intervention had previously stagnated.

Yet, challenges remain for the transportation sector. Even with Private Sector involvement, funding and technical capacity are lacking for maintenance and rehabilitation of the region’s Roads, Railways, Ports, and Airports. Rural areas with much of the region’s population still struggle with accessibility issues. As well, development of transport infrastructure and its increased use can adversely affect the environment and sustainability.

Areas of Focus

In order to outline plans for infrastructure development that balance the needs of the region with its challenges, SADC released its Regional Infrastructure Development Master Plan in 2012.

This document follows the Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa of the African Development Bank in designating key areas of focus that have the greatest benefit to the region.