Africa, Headlines

TRANSPORT: Neighbours Reap Fruits of Cote D’Ivoire’s Conflict

Noel Kokou Tadegnon

LOME, Nov 18 2002 (IPS) - Ports in Ghana, Togo and Benin have enjoyed a sharp increase in traffic as a result of the army rebellion in Cote d’Ivoire.

Ever since the Sep 19 mutiny closed traffic in Cote d’Ivoire’s major port, Abidjan, the ports of Tema, in Ghana, Lome, in Togo, and Cotonou, in Benin have been scrambling to capture the business that Abidjan has turned away. Like Abidjan, the three ports serve landlocked Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger.

Abidjan, the economic capital of Cote D’Ivoire, has traditionally been the transport hub of the sub-region.

Businesspersons in the sub-region are worried that the Ivorian crisis would affect the economies of the inland countries. ”We’re having trouble getting supplies,” complains Moussa Sidi Mohamed, an importer from Niger.

Imports and exports will be hard hit by Abidjan’s port closure, he says. It could result in shortages of imported products such as sugar, cement, and fuel in the inland states.

”We’ve counted about 238 Malian trucks stuck at the port in Abidjan or on Ivorian roads,” laments the president of the Malian Loaders Council, Amadou Djigue. Most of Mali’s freight is shipped through the port of Abidjan.

Annually, 600,000 metric tonnes of freight from Burkina Faso are shipped through Abidjan.

”In total, 80 percent of our major exports, which are mostly agricultural products, are shipped through the port of Abidjan,” notes Lansana Diawara, the vice-president of the Burkina Faso Chamber of Commerce, Industry, and Artisanry. But, as the Minister of Commerce, Benoit Ouattara, emphasises, ”one of Burkina Faso’s major goals is to reduce dependence, on Abidjan, to a minimum”.

Some freight, waiting clearance in Abidjan before the Ivorian crisis erupted, was transferred to Tema or Lome. Ships destined for Abidjan with rice for Mali and Niger were forced to unload 13 tonnes in Tema.

Another boat, the MV Blanden Delmas, also unloaded 2.5 tonnes of rice destined for Burkina Faso at Tema, while two others unloaded 10.5 tonnes for Mali and five tonnes for Niger.

Cletus Kuzagbe, of the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority (GPHA), says ”arrangements are underway for Takoradi (another Ghanaian port) to bail out Tema if necessary”.

Other West African countries also have seized the opportunity to launch themselves into the region’s shipping market. ”We want to assist businesses in the sub-region,” says Agathe Mensah, marketing and communications director of the port of Lome.

”We want to keep those countries open to the rest of the world, and reduce the effects of the Ivorian crisis on them,” says Ferdinand Assogba, director general of the port of Cotonou.

Port officials in Lome say the number of ships arriving each day is ”constantly increasing”.

”There is a huge increase in activity here. We don’t yet have the exact figures, but it’s clear that the port of Lome has never been so busy,” says Mensah, jubilantly.

The managers of the sub-regional ports are offering all sorts of promotions to attract traffic: reductions in tariffs, smooth road connections, and guarantees of warehouse security. Meetings between port officials and regional entrepreneurs are increasing and there has been a boom in publicity campaigns.

”We want to ease paperwork for entrepreneurs by creating a one-stop office to process shipments before May,” says Mensah.

Awa Beleyi, the director of Lome Port, says ”the entire port community of Lome, with the support of political leaders, is working tirelessly to resolve customer service issues”.

He announced a 30-to-50-percent reduction in handling charges to Burkinabe businesses. And, the Society of Fibres and Textiles (SOFITEX), Burkina Faso’s cotton marketing body, has declared that this year’s cotton production, estimated 410,000 tonnes, will be shipped through Togo.

Mali also has decided to ship its cotton harvest through Lome this year. Port of Lome offices in Bamako, the capital of Mali, and in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, have reportedly received a lot of new inquiries.

”Before the conflict in Cote dIvoire, entrepreneurs in Mali never used Lome for shipping. But now, they have more than 100 trucks there waiting to be unloaded,” says Mensah.

Lome’s port – measuring 14 metres deep – is ”the deepest on the coast between Dakar (Senegal) and Luanda (Angola)”, according to a Togolese official.

”At this rate of losing business, the port of Abidjan will have to work harder to regain its former glory,” notes Adama Coulibaly, an Ivorian shipper.

 
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Africa, Headlines

TRANSPORT: Neighbours Reap Fruits of Cote D’Ivoire’s Conflict

Noel Kokou Tadegnon

LOME, Nov 18 2002 (IPS) - Ports in Ghana, Togo and Benin have enjoyed a sharp increase in traffic as a result of the army rebellion in Cote d’Ivoire.
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