An Atlas of African Affairs

By Andrew Boyd; Patrick Van Rensburg | Go to book overview
Save to active project

P. Transport

Africa has about 30,000 miles of railway, of several different gauges. The railways are most developed in the Maghreb (1) and in South Africa, where average density is a mile of railway for every 50-60 square miles; in tropical Africa, it is one for every 340-350 square miles (against 1 for 18 in the U.S.A. and 1 for 8 in France). The best road networks are also in South Africa and along parts of the Mediterranean coast. Road building has been speeded up since the war, and newly independent states like Ghana are giving it special attention, but good hard-topped or even gravel roads are few in the tropical areas; the 'continental routes' are mostly dirt roads, with many stretches impassable in the rainy season.

The chief navigable waterways (apart from the Suez Canal - 6) are: the Congo and its tributaries, about 8,000 miles in all, far the most extensive river navigation system; the Niger and Benue; the Nile; and the Great Lakes of East Africa. Rail links have been built to complete the transport system at points where river navigation is broken by rapids, as on the Congo below Leopoldville (B, 24); but this means costly transhipment (some freight from the interior has to switch from river to rail and back three or four times to reach a seaport).

Passenger transport is largely by rail and waterway, though more and more buses are now operating, especially in West Africa.

The transport deficiency is a serious obstacle to general development, but difficult terrain, tropical conditions, and the need to import skill and many materials make new construction expensive. Most current construction is of roads on routes where neither rail nor river provides a means of transport, but some new railways are also being built (20, 31).

The numerous railways that link the hinterland with seaports reflect the dependence of the modern parts of most regions' economies on overseas trade, and the low level of trade between African areas themselves. The artificial pattern of past colonial rule is stamped on much of the rail system, with its differing gauges, and, in some cases, routes that conform to the borders between the spheres of former ruling powers rather than to economic realities.

Most large cities are now on international air routes, and there are many regular inter-territorial flights, the main gap in these being between West Africa and the north-east. The coming of air transport has had important political effects, making possible conferences of leaders from many parts of Africa who could not otherwise have met


Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this page

Cited page

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
An Atlas of African Affairs


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 134

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?