Africa’s biggest freight operator Transnet has its sights set on collaborations with at least eight African countries.

According to public enterprises minster Lynne Brown, Transnet is pursuing opportunities in Senegal, Liberia, Nigeria, Ghana, Togo, Benin, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Kenya.

“These include possible joint ventures in areas such as rail and port opportunities, the development of infrastructure at ports and establishing transport corridors in those countries,” Brown said, as the continent has 15 landlocked countries requiring access to ports.

She added that Transnet was not only committed to develop infrastructure, but that their presence must also change the socio-economic conditions of those living close to these projects.

She added that the freight company should also procure and develop local small, medium and micro enterprises within therespective African countries.

Venturing into Africa

Transnet began looking to explore into Africa exactly two years ago when it adopted its Africa Strategy. This strategy is based on the company’s mandate to develop and pursue commercial opportunities on the rest of the continent more actively.

Transnet also made this decision based on its need to diversify revenue sources in response to the economic slowdown in the country and worldwide.

Brown said other state entities must also adopt this approach, as well as the private sector.

Africa’s infrastructure deficit

“If we can address Africa’s logistics infrastructure deficit, we can change the quality of lives of all Africans,” Brown said. “And we look to Africa as a key, under-developed market.”

Brown highlighted that in 2015, intra-African trade accounted for less than 18% of total continental exports. “Among the key factors, underpinning these numbers is Africa’s logistics infrastructure deficit,” she said.

According to the Logistics Performance Index of the World Bank, only six of the 46 African countries ranked are in the top two categories, 18 are ranked as “partial performers”, and 22 are ranked “logistics unfriendly”.

Brown is scheduled to take a tour to Africa’s busiest port – the Port of Durban, and will also visit the Maritime School of Excellence and Transnet Engineering.