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Navigating Growth Challenges: Prioritizing Equity in Sub-Saharan Africa’s Economic Recovery

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Navigating Growth Challenges: Prioritizing Equity in Sub-Saharan Africa’s Economic Recovery

Sub-Saharan Africa’s economies are poised for a modest rebound in 2024, with growth projected to reach 3.4%, according to the latest Africa’s Pulse report from the World Bank. Despite this uptick, the region faces persistent challenges that threaten the sustainability of its recovery and the reduction of poverty.

While increased private consumption and decreasing inflation provide some support to the economic resurgence, vulnerabilities persist. Global economic uncertainties, mounting debt obligations, recurrent natural calamities, and escalating conflicts hinder the region’s growth prospects.

The report forecasts a gradual improvement in growth rates over the next few years, yet this progress remains fragile. Although inflation is moderating and public debt growth is slowing, many African governments grapple with external liquidity issues and unsustainable debt burdens.

Crucially, the pace of economic expansion in Sub-Saharan Africa lags behind that of previous decades and falls short of significantly alleviating poverty. Structural inequalities exacerbate this challenge, resulting in less effective poverty reduction compared to other regions.

Andrew Dabalen, the World Bank’s Chief Economist for Africa, emphasizes the need for transformative policies to foster faster and more inclusive growth. He notes that relying solely on fiscal measures is insufficient and calls for policies that enhance the private sector’s capacity to generate employment opportunities for all segments of society.

The report also highlights shrinking external resources for African governments and warns of heightened risks from political instability and geopolitical tensions. These factors, coupled with persisting inequalities, underscore the urgency of policy interventions to fortify the region’s resilience against future shocks.

Sub-Saharan Africa grapples with some of the highest levels of inequality globally, manifesting in unequal access to basic services and income-generating activities. Addressing these structural constraints is vital for fostering a more prosperous and equitable future, notes Gabriela Inchauste, co-author of an upcoming World Bank report on inequality in the region.

Africa’s Pulse outlines several policy recommendations to promote robust and equitable growth, including restoring macroeconomic stability, facilitating intergenerational mobility, improving market access, and ensuring fiscal policies do not disproportionately burden the poor.

In navigating the complexities of economic recovery, prioritizing equity and inclusivity is paramount for Sub-Saharan Africa to achieve sustainable and resilient growth.


5 Major Ports in Africa That Are Strengthening African Trade

Africa boasts a 26,000-kilometre-long coastline dotted with over 100 ports and harbours. However, despite this extensive maritime access, none of Africa’s ports rank among the top 10 busiest in terms of annual container traffic. Unfortunately, the development of sea ports in Africa has lagged behind other parts of the world in terms of efficiency and capacity for handling international cargo. 

A couple of global port operators are tackling this discrepancy, including Hutchison Ports, DPWorld, APM Terminals, and ICTSI, which operates five major African ports. Continuously looking for opportunities worldwide, the company recently announced the expansion of its portfolio to include DCT Pier 2 in Durban, South Africa—Transnet’s largest container terminal. 

The state of ports in Africa in 2023

According to the World Bank’s Container Port Performance Index 2021, the top 20 most efficient container ports in the world are all located in Asia and Europe. The highest-ranking African port is the Port of Tanger Med, which is ranked 34th on the list. 

Historically, there are a few challenges to developing sea ports in Africa. Many African ports have been underfunded for many years, which has led to outdated infrastructure and equipment. This can make it difficult for them to handle large volumes of cargo efficiently.

There’s also the geographic and socio-political reality of shipping in Africa that causes interconnectivity challenges. Many African ports are not well-connected to the road and rail networks of their respective countries, which can make it difficult to transport cargo to and from the ports. 

Nevertheless,  there are a number of African ports that are making significant progress in improving their efficiency and capacity. For example, the Port of Durban in South Africa and the Port of Tanger Med in Morocco are now among the most efficient ports in the continent. These two and more are making notable contributions to the economies of the region and changing the landscape of global shipping. 

What are the major ports in Africa?

Foreign investments have led to significant upgrades at major seaports across Africa. These are the major ports in Africa today—and how they’re contributing to the economies of the countries around the continent. 

Port of Mombasa, Kenya

The Port of Mombasa, operated by the Kenya Ports Authority, is the largest port in East Africa and a central hub for trade between Africa and Asia. It has expanded in recent years, and primarily exports tea, coffee, horticultural products, and other goods from inland African countries like Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda, eastern Congo, Ethiopia, and the southern part of Sudan. Approximately 35.9 million tonnes of cargo and 1.49 million TEUs were handled at the port in 2020.

Kenya’s major port in Mombasa also imports petroleum products, consumer goods, and machinery from Western Europe, Asia, America, and the Far East ports. In Kenya, trade contributed 15.6 % of Kenya’s GDP in 2020, making the port a major contributor to economic success in the country. 

Port of Durban, South Africa

While there are many ports in South Africa, the Port of Durban is a major commercial hub on the East African coast. The Port of Durban accounts for around 60% of trade revenue for South Africa and links products traveling between the Far East, Middle East, South and North America, Europe, and Australia. 

Development continues at this key port. Transnet SOC Ltd selected ICTSI as the preferred bidder for the 25-year joint venture to develop and operate Durban Container Terminal (DCT) Pier 2. 

“Our goal is to maximize the Port of Durban’s potential through responsible operations. We look forward to collaborating with Transnet and all the stakeholders involved, who share our vision for a world-class terminal that serves as a catalyst for economic growth in the region,” said Christian R. Gonzalez, ICTSI’s executive vice president.

Port of Toamasina, Madagascar

The Port of Toamasina may not be the biggest port in the world, but it’s among the most efficient—which is why it warrants a mention in this list of major ports in Africa. 

Strategically located on the eastern coast of Madagascar, Madagascar International Container Terminal Services Ltd. (MICTSL)is a key port facility in the Indian Ocean connecting African and Asian trade. The Port of Toamasina handles 90% of Madagascar’s container traffic. 

Since then, the terminal has been modernised to make port operations run more efficiently, reports The Africa Logistics.

Port of Matadi, Congo

Not all of Africa’s ports are located on the coast. Matadi is the most important port on the Congo River, handling 90% of maritime traffic (not including oil tankers). Approximately 150 kilometers upstream from the Atlantic, Matadi is a major import and export point for the whole of D.R. Congo. 

The Port of Matadi is the only terminal in DRC with mobile harbor cranes allowing gearless vessels to operate, and empty depot services accepting empty containers before vessel arrival. This allows Matadi to have the fastest turnaround time in the region for both trucks and vessels. 

Matadi enables the transport of the DRC’s rich agricultural exports, such as coffee, palm, oil, cotton, and sugar. Its mining sector, however, has been driving the economy with copper, cobalt, gold, coltan, tin, zinc, and diamonds as among its major exports. 

Port of Tanger Med, Morocco

The Port of Tanger Med is a new port complex located near the Strait of Gibraltar. It is one of the largest ports in the Mediterranean Sea and is well-positioned to serve as a hub for trade between Europe, Africa, and Asia. Tanger Med is a central hub for the export of automobiles, textiles, and agricultural products, and for the import of petroleum products, machinery, and consumer goods. It comprises four container terminals, two of which are operated by APM Terminals. 

“Tanger-Med handled 7,174,870 TEUs in 2021, and a total cargo volume of 101,055,713 passed through its general cargo terminal. The RORO terminal crossed the 400,000 mark in the same year, a remarkable achievement,” wrote Marine Insight. “This tremendous upward growth was achieved by port digitisation, reduction in waiting times, resumption of industrial exports and upgradation of port equipment.” 

Empowering the future of ports in Africa

Africa’s maritime ports hold so much potential for improvement. Investments from the private sector have led to the development of more efficient and more competitive port facilities like Onne Multipurpose Terminal in Nigeria and Kribi Multipurpose Terminal in Cameroon, both operated by ICTSI. As the largest independent terminal operator, ICTSI is working diligently to develop, modernise, and upgrade ports around the world, including in AfricaI. 

Learn more about ICTSI Africa’s ongoing projects and future initiatives, and stay informed about the evolution of vital port infrastructure across the continent.


Grain Industry Insights in Africa

The grain industry is a cornerstone of food security in Africa, serving as a staple for millions across the continent. With a burgeoning population and socioeconomic transformations, understanding the volume of grain production and consumption is pivotal for ensuring the resilience of food systems in Africa. The data obtained from IndexBox shows that the largest countries in terms of grain consumption in Africa in 2022 were Egypt (38.117 M tons), Nigeria (32.168 M tons), Ethiopia (31.605 M tons), Algeria (22.505 M tons), and South Africa (16.769 M tons).

Volume of Grain Production

When it comes to grain production, Ethiopia led the charts with 30.179 M tons, followed closely by Nigeria with 29.647 M tons. Egypt held the third position with 22.385 M tons, while South Africa and Tanzania produced 19.153 M tons and 11.311 M tons, respectively. These figures suggest that while some African countries have robust production capacities, others are still largely dependent on imports to meet their grain demands.

Most Popular Types of Grain

Maize (corn), wheat, and rice are among the most popular grains cultivated and consumed on the African continent. Maize, adaptable to various climates, is widely grown across sub-Saharan Africa. Wheat is prevalent in North African countries, where bread and other wheat-based foods are dietary staples. Rice consumption is also significant, particularly in West African nations, given its ease of integration into traditional dishes. The volumes of these grains, however, fluctuate annually due to factors like climate variability and market forces.

Drivers of Market Growth and Limitations

Economic development, population growth, and urbanization are key drivers of market growth in Africa’s grain industry. As more people move to cities, the demand for processed and convenient food items, many of which are grain-based, rises. However, growth is not without its limitations. Poor infrastructure, fluctuating climatic conditions, and limited access to technology hinder production capabilities. Policies aiming at improving agricultural practices, investment in storage and transport infrastructure, and the development of more climate-resistant crop varieties can potentially mitigate some of these challenges.

Dependency on Grain Imports

Africa’s reliance on grain imports is significant. In 2022, Algeria was the largest grain importer with 18.916 M tons, followed by Egypt (15.737 M tons), Morocco (8.779 M tons), Libya (3.484 M tons), and Tunisia (3.443 M tons). These import volumes highlight a substantial dependence on foreign grain supplies, due in part to insufficient domestic production to meet the demand.

Regarding the financial aspect of imports, in 2022, Egypt spent the most on grain imports, reaching a total of 6.308 billion USD. Algeria’s import value amounted to 4.606 billion USD, Morocco’s to 3.638 billion USD, Nigeria’s to 2.276 billion USD, and Tunisia’s to 1.469 billion USD.

Challenges of Import Reliance

Reliance on imports can pose multiple challenges, such as vulnerability to global market fluctuations and trade policies of exporting countries. Trade restrictions, supply chain disruptions, and logistics issues are tangible problems that can jeopardize food security in import-dependent African countries. Furthermore, currency fluctuations can significantly impact the affordability of grain imports. Additionally, reliance on a diversified set of countries for grain imports can be both a strength and a liability, as it exposes nations to varying geopolitical risks that can affect supply chains.


The grain industry in Africa is marked by contrasting scenarios of production capacities and import dependencies. While countries like Ethiopia and Nigeria showcase substantial production volumes, others continue to rely heavily on imports to feed their populations. The complex interplay of factors contributing to market growth and limitations underscores the need for strategic policy development aimed at enhancing self-sufficiency and mitigating the potential risks associated with import reliance. Efforts to build robust agricultural systems in Africa are essential to ensure the long-term sustainability and security of the continent’s grain supply.

Source: IndexBox Market Intelligence Platform  

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TRADE X Opens New Automotive Trading Facilities in Kenya

The TRADE X global automotive trading platform creates a strategic hub in Kenya, which will serve automotive dealers within key East African countries

TRADE X, a B2B cross-border automotive trading platform based in Ontario, Canada, today announced that it has opened a new Kenyan trading corridor, which includes both a shared bonded warehouse in Mombasa and an office in Nairobi, as the company expands its reach across the African continent.

TRADE X provides auto dealers, car rental companies, fleet owners and mobility solution providers with a seamless end-to-end process for the sourcing and distribution of cross-border vehicle inventory. With the highest GDP in East Africa, Kenya serves as a strategic location, providing a direct-access route to trade with landlocked countries such as South Sudan and Uganda, where it is legal to drive vehicles registered in neighboring countries.

Over the past few months, TRADE X has focused on developing a presence in Kenya and building broader trust within the automotive industry. In May, TRADE X began buying and shipping inventory to Kenya as the company works toward making right-hand drive vehicles available on its platform.

In Kenya, the bulk of automobiles originate in Japan. Unlike other African markets, Kenya has strict import requirements. Vehicles must not be older than seven years, and cars must pass an inspection process before being shipped into the country. Vehicles that are shipped to Kenya without first passing an inspection are destroyed.

TRADE X is focused not only on tapping into the supply coming out of Japan, but to opening new trade routes between Kenya and countries such as the U.K, Australia, Thailand, South Africa, Singapore and the United Arab Emirates.

In Kenya, popular automotive brands include Toyota, Honda, Mazda, Nissan and Subaru. TRADE X is looking to further expand the variety of makes and models available to Kenyan car buyers.

Interested automotive dealers in West Africa can sign up at to begin procuring vehicles, accelerating inventory turnover and driving revenues.

The company’s AI-driven ‘Brain’ software provides dealers, fleet owners, and mobility solutions providers first-ever support in all aspects of vehicle trading. This includes trade financing, compliance, customs requirements, international payments processing, vehicle inspections, digital trade documentation, and homologation. TRADE X provides peace of mind and security for users, whether they are trading within their own continent or overseas. TRADE X simplifies the experience and ensures each transaction is transparent, compliant, insured, and monitored from start to finish.


With headquarters in Ontario, Canada, TRADE X is the first global vehicle marketplace to aggregate cross-border supply and demand for car dealers, fleet owners, rental companies, mobility solution providers, importers, and exporters, opening new trading corridors to buy and sell vehicles. The TRADE X ‘Brain’ platform is a machine-learning, AI-driven technology that connects buyers and sellers through a transparent marketplace that aids sellers in finding the world’s highest bidders and gives buyers access to the best vehicle source markets and price arbitrage opportunities. Users can quickly and seamlessly transact online in a secure environment with all the complexities of international trade – compliance, anti-money laundering regulations, vehicle inspection, currency exchange, digital trade documentation, payments, and financing – all managed by TRADE X. The company serves authorized buyers and sellers everywhere with a user-friendly app available 24/7 via mobile, tablet, or desktop. TRADE X’s largest investors include Aimia Inc., a publicly traded holding company listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX: AIM).


Africa’s Frozen Whole Fish Market – Nigeria Emerges As the Largest Market, with $488M of Imports in 2018

IndexBox has just published a new report: ‘Africa – Frozen Whole Fish – Market Analysis, Forecast, Size, Trends and Insights’. Here is a summary of the report’s key findings.

The value of the frozen whole fish market in Africa expanded markedly to $5B in 2018, jumping by 5.8% against the previous year. Over the period under review, the market size attained its peak level in 2018 and is expected to retain its growth in the years to come.

Exports in Africa

In 2018, approx. 1.5M tonnes of frozen whole fish were exported in Africa; increasing by 4.4% against the previous year. The total export volume increased at an average annual rate of +7.3% over the period from 2013 to 2018; however, the trend pattern indicated some noticeable fluctuations being recorded over the period under review. The pace of growth appeared the most rapid in 2017 when exports increased by 11% against the previous year.

In value terms, frozen whole fish exports went up modestly to $1.9B (IndexBox estimates) in 2018. The total export value peaked in 2018 and are likely to see steady growth in the near future.

Exports by Country

Namibia (393K tonnes), Mauritania (287K tonnes), Morocco (284K tonnes) and Senegal (209K tonnes) represented roughly 76% of total exports of frozen whole fish in 2018. Seychelles (124K tonnes) occupied an 8% share (based on tonnes) of total exports, which put it in second place, followed by Angola (4.7%). South Africa (47K tonnes) followed a long way behind the leaders.

From 2013 to 2018, the biggest increases were in Seychelles, while shipments for the other leaders experienced more modest paces of growth.

In value terms, the largest frozen whole fish supplying countries in Africa were Mauritania ($302M), Morocco ($286M) and Namibia ($278M), together comprising 46% of total exports. Seychelles, Senegal, South Africa and Angola lagged somewhat behind, together comprising a further 37%.

Export Prices by Country

The frozen whole fish export price in Africa stood at $1,219 per tonne in 2018, approximately reflecting the previous year.

Prices varied noticeably by the country of origin; the country with the highest price was South Africa ($2,742 per tonne), while Namibia ($708 per tonne) was amongst the lowest.

From 2013 to 2018, the most notable rate of growth in terms of prices was attained by South Africa, while the other leaders experienced mixed trends in the export price figures.

Imports in Africa

In 2018, approx. 2.7M tonnes of frozen whole fish were imported in Africa; lowering by -1.7% against 2017.

In value terms, frozen whole fish imports went down modestly to $3B (IndexBox estimates) in 2018. The total import value hit record highs at $3B in 2014; afterwards, it flattened through to 2018.

Imports by Country

The purchases of the four major importers of frozen whole fish, namely Nigeria, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire and Egypt, represented more than half of total import. It was distantly followed by South Africa (163K tonnes), Ghana (157K tonnes) and Mauritius (142K tonnes), together achieving a 17% share of total imports. Benin (97K tonnes), Democratic Republic of the Congo (96K tonnes) and Zambia (96K tonnes) followed a long way behind the leaders.

From 2013 to 2018, the biggest increases were in Benin, while purchases for the other leaders experienced more modest paces of growth.

In value terms, the largest frozen whole fish importing markets in Africa were Nigeria ($488M), Cameroon ($467M) and Egypt ($290M), with a combined 42% share of total imports. These countries were followed by Cote d’Ivoire, Mauritius, Ghana, South Africa, Zambia, Benin and Democratic Republic of the Congo, which together accounted for a further 39%.

Import Prices by Country

The frozen whole fish import price in Africa stood at $1,088 per tonne in 2018, surging by 4.8% against the previous year.

There were significant differences in the average prices amongst the major importing countries. In 2018, the country with the highest price was Mauritius ($1,810 per tonne), while Nigeria ($839 per tonne) was amongst the lowest.

From 2013 to 2018, the most notable rate of growth in terms of prices was attained by Ghana, while the other leaders experienced a decline in the import price figures.

Source: IndexBox AI Platform


Grain Consumption in Africa Continues Rising

IndexBox has just published a new report: ‘Africa – Grain – Market Analysis, Forecast, Size, Trends and Insights’. Here is a summary of the report’s key findings.

The revenue of the grain market in Africa amounted to $109B in 2018, picking up by 9% against the previous year. This figure reflects the total revenues of producers and importers (excluding logistics costs, retail marketing costs, and retailers’ margins, which will be included in the final consumer price).

The market value increased at an average annual rate of +1.4% over the period from 2014 to 2018; the trend pattern remained relatively stable, with somewhat noticeable fluctuations being observed in certain years.

Consumption By Country

The countries with the highest volumes of grain consumption in 2018 were Egypt (44M tonnes), Nigeria (31M tonnes) and Ethiopia (26M tonnes), together comprising 37% of total consumption. These countries were followed by Algeria, Morocco, South Africa, Tanzania, Mali, Sudan, Kenya, Niger and Tunisia, which together accounted for a further 38%.

Market Forecast to 2030

Driven by increasing demand for grain in Africa, the market is expected to continue an upward consumption trend over the next decade. Market performance is forecast to retain its current trend pattern, expanding with an anticipated CAGR of +2.5% for the period from 2018 to 2030, which is projected to bring the market volume to 366M tonnes by the end of 2030.

Production in Africa

The grain production totaled 201M tonnes in 2018, increasing by 1.6% against the previous year. The total output volume increased at an average annual rate of +1.5% from 2014 to 2018; the trend pattern remained relatively stable, with only minor fluctuations being observed throughout the analyzed period. The most prominent rate of growth was recorded in 2017 with an increase of 6.7% against the previous year. The volume of grain production peaked in 2018 and is expected to retain its growth in the near future. The general positive trend in terms of grain output was largely conditioned by a slight increase of the harvested area and a relatively flat trend pattern in yield figures.

Production by Country

The countries with the highest volumes of grain production in 2018 were Nigeria (26M tonnes), Ethiopia (25M tonnes) and Egypt (22M tonnes), together accounting for 37% of total production. South Africa, Morocco, Tanzania, Mali, Sudan, Niger, Algeria, Burkina Faso and Kenya lagged somewhat behind, together accounting for a further 37%.

Harvested Area and Yield in Africa

In 2018, the grain harvested area in Africa amounted to 125M ha, remaining relatively unchanged against the previous year. The average yield of grain in Africa stood at 1.6 tonne per ha, flattening at the previous year.

Exports in Africa

In 2018, the grain exports in Africa stood at 2.3M tonnes, growing by 14% against the previous year. In value terms, grain exports stood at $720M (IndexBox estimates).

Exports by Country

South Africa represented the largest exporter of grain exported in Africa, with the volume of exports accounting for 1.2M tonnes, which was near 52% of total exports in 2018. Uganda (471K tonnes) took the second position in the ranking, distantly followed by Tanzania (212K tonnes) and Zambia (144K tonnes). All these countries together occupied near 36% share of total exports. Kenya (70K tonnes), Sudan (46K tonnes) and Burkina Faso (44K tonnes) followed a long way behind the leaders.

Exports from South Africa decreased at an average annual rate of -17.0% from 2014 to 2018. At the same time, Kenya (+64.3%), Uganda (+37.8%), Tanzania (+32.4%), Zambia (+10.8%) and Sudan (+3.6%) displayed positive paces of growth. Moreover, Kenya emerged as the fastest-growing exporter exported in Africa, with a CAGR of +64.3% from 2014-2018. By contrast, Burkina Faso (-10.3%) illustrated a downward trend over the same period. Uganda (+15 p.p.), Tanzania (+6.2 p.p.), Kenya (+2.6 p.p.) and Zambia (+2.1 p.p.) significantly strengthened its position in terms of the total exports, while South Africa saw its share reduced by -57.6% from 2014 to 2018, respectively. The shares of the other countries remained relatively stable throughout the analyzed period.

In value terms, South Africa ($407M) remains the largest grain supplier in Africa, comprising 56% of total grain exports. The second position in the ranking was occupied by Uganda ($94M), with a 13% share of total exports. It was followed by Tanzania, with a 10% share.

In South Africa, grain exports plunged by an average annual rate of -13.9% over the period from 2014-2018. In the other countries, the average annual rates were as follows: Uganda (+27.8% per year) and Tanzania (+32.0% per year).

Imports in Africa

In 2018, approx. 73M tonnes of grain were imported in Africa; increasing by 4.5% against the previous year. In value terms, grain imports amounted to $15B (IndexBox estimates).

Imports by Country

In 2018, Egypt (22M tonnes), distantly followed by Algeria (14M tonnes), Morocco (6.8M tonnes), Nigeria (5M tonnes) and Tunisia (3.5M tonnes) were the key importers of grain, together achieving 70% of total imports. The following importers – Libya (3M tonnes), Sudan (2.9M tonnes), Kenya (2.4M tonnes), South Africa (2.2M tonnes) and Zimbabwe (1.2M tonnes) – together made up 16% of total imports.

From 2014 to 2018, the most notable rate of growth in terms of imports, amongst the main importing countries, was attained by Zimbabwe, while imports for the other leaders experienced more modest paces of growth.

In value terms, the largest grain importing markets in Africa were Egypt ($4.1B), Algeria ($2.6B) and Morocco ($1.4B), with a combined 54% share of total imports. These countries were followed by Nigeria, Tunisia, Sudan, Libya, Kenya, South Africa and Zimbabwe, which together accounted for a further 30%.

Source: IndexBox AI Platform