South Africa's global connectivity via ships, trains, planes

South Africa has top notch roads and its air and rail networks are the largest in Africa. The country is also linked globally via ports where ships regularly pass through.

According to Brand South Africa, a project of President Jacob Zuma’s office, the transport sector has been highlighted by the government as a key contributor to the country’s competitiveness in global markets. “It is increasingly being seen as a crucial engine for economic growth and social development and the government has unveiled plans to spend billions of rands to improve the country’s roads, railways and ports,” it says. Transport is a massive business and operations in South Africa span road, sea and air.

Sea change
The state-owned Transnet National Ports Authority manages the country’s ports. These are Richards Bay and Durban in KwaZulu-Natal;, East London, Port Elizabeth and the port of Ngqura in the Eastern Cape and Mossel Bay, Cape Town and Saldanha in the Western Cape. Brand South Africa says that “approximately 96% of the country’s exports are conveyed by sea and eight commercial ports are the conduits for trade between South Africa and its southern African partners, as well as hubs for traffic to and from Europe, Asia, the Americas and the east and west coasts of Africa”.

The port of Ngqura, South Africa’s eighth and newest commercial port, has been developed off the coast of Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape. Nqura is set to be the deepest container terminal in Africa and is a key part of Coega, one of the country’s strategic industrial development zones (IDZs). Durban is Africa’s busiest port and the largest container facility in southern Africa, while Richard’s Bay is the world’s largest bulk coal terminal. Transnet is upgrading several of the country’s ports as part of a multi-billion rand capital expenditure programme.

On the road again
Brand South Africa confirms that South Africa’s total road network covers about 754 000km, of which over 70 000km are paved or surfaced roads. The drive from Musina on South Africa’s northern border to Cape Town in the south is a 2 000km journey on well-maintained roads. While the department of transport is responsible for overall policy, road-building and maintenance is the responsibility of the South African National Roads Agency (Sanral) as well as the nine provinces and local governments. Sanral is responsible for the country’s network of national roads, which grew to over 20 000km and an estimated value of over R40-billion in 2010. Around 3 000km of the national roads are toll roads. About 1 800km of these are maintained by Sanral, while private companies develop, operate and maintain the rest.

Do the locomotion
South Africa has an extensive rail network—the 14th longest in the world—connecting with networks in the sub-Saharan region. The country’s rail infrastructure, which connects the ports with the rest of South Africa, represents about 80% of Africa’s total. State-owned Transnet Freight Rail is the largest railroad and heavy haulier in southern Africa, with about 21 000km of rail network, of which about 1 500km are heavy haul lines. Just over 8 200km of the lines are electrified.

Finance minister Pravin Gordhan in his 2011 national budget speech announced an 18-year, R86-billion programme to upgrade the country’s rail transport infrastructure. Everyday commuters are also set to benefit, as this will likely affect Metrorail commuter services located in Cape Town, the Eastern Cape, Durban and greater Johannesburg and Pretoria, focusing mainly on poorer South Africans. The government has also created a new rail and bus operator, the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa), by merging the operations of the South African Rail Commuter Corporation, Metrorail, Shosholoza Meyl and Autopax (the company that runs the Translux and City to City buses).

Fly me to the moon
In terms of air travel, Brand South Africa confirms that 62 airlines, making 274 000 aircraft landings and carrying 16.5-million passengers (counting departures only), moved through South Africa’s 10 principal airports in 2009. The Airports Company South Africa (Acsa) runs 10 national airports while handling over 98% of the country’s commercial air traffic. There are major international airports in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban, as well as airports in Bloemfontein, Port Elizabeth, East London, George, Kimberley, Pilansberg and Upington.

Acsa has invested about R20-billion in South Africa’s airports in the run-up to the 2010 Fifa Soccer World Cup. Among the projects were major upgrades to Johannesburg’s OR Tambo International Airport and Cape Town International Airport. The old Durban International Airport was shut down and replaced by King Shaka International Airport to the north of Durban. This was built from scratch at a cost of R7.9-billion.
Twenty-one air traffic control centres, run by Air Traffic and Navigation Services (the navigation services provider for SA), support operations that cover 145 licensed airports with paved runways and more than 580 aerodromes with unpaved runways.

The Airports Council International named Cape Town International the best airport in Africa in 2011. OR Tambo International, Africa’s busiest airport, was named third best and King Shaka International fourth best airport on the continent. South African Airways (SAA) is by far the largest air carrier in Africa, with connections to more than 20 cities across the continent. As a Star Alliance member, SAA also offers its customers 975 destinations in 162 countries and 18 100 flights daily.

This article originally appeared in the Mail & Guardian newspaper as an advertorial supplement

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