The construction of a bridge across the Nile River in Uganda is expected to reduce traffic bottlenecks, but the cost of transporting freight is likely to remain high due to other factors, according to a supply chain analyst for the region.
The cable-stayed bridge near the source of the Nile River at Jinja in the south east of the country is currently one of the biggest bridge developments in Central and East Africa, and is expected to improve transport flows on the northern corridor route that links Uganda and Burundi, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to the Port of Mombasa in Kenya.
It will replace the deteriorating Nalubaale Bridge, which is not wide enough to cope with the predicted increase in the volume of traffic, and acts as the “only viable link across the Nile for the people of the landlocked East African countries”, according to a statement from the Ugandan government.
Tielman Nieuwoudt, principal at The Supply Chain Lab and author of How We Made It In Africa, said that transportation costs in Uganda are double that of the US, and even though the bridge should ease traffic congestion and improve communication, delivering freight will still be costly for companies.
“For organisations moving goods in and around African markets, the long lead times and costs are two of the biggest challenges for almost every industry,” he added. “For example, in landlocked Burundi it takes up to 71 days to import goods from any of the other East African countries.”
He added the resources boom has ended, meaning a lot of infrastructure projects in the pipeline, such as the construction of a second container terminal at Mombasa, will likely be delayed.
The differences in infrastructure between various countries on the continent will also affect freight transportation.
“DRC still has less than 3,000km of paved roads in the country, compared with the similar-sized Algeria, which boasts more than 70,000km of paved roads. So each country should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis,” Nieuwoudt added.
The Ugandan government received a 9.1bn yen loan (269 Ugandan shillings) from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) to build both the bridge and a six km access road. Construction started in 2014 and is expected to be complete by December 2017.
According to the Ugandan National Roads Authority, 10% of the works have been completed on the bridge, which is set to measure 80m high and 525m in length.