The landlocked countries in West & Central Africa are characterized by large trade imbalances, with export-import ratios below 30 percent, and an overwhelming reliance on road transport. While further improvements in infrastructure are still much needed, policy reforms that reduce costs and increase competition in transport and logistics services are now critical. However, the political economy of the necessary reforms is complex and not well understood.
The trucking sector tends to be politicized, especially in countries that heavily rely on it for their food security and trade. In West & Central Africa, fragility, political instability, and structural economic and trade imbalances affect the reform dynamics of the sector. Although notable gains have been made in improving the region’s road infrastructure, key policy reforms that would correct the market distortions and increase the value of infrastructure investments have yet to follow. This SSATP working paper overviews the trucking sector inefficiencies in the region and identifies key political economy challenges that have thus far prevented meaningful reform. It surveys past analytical work on trucking sector reforms in the region, describes the current challenges and the opportunities going forward, presents an analytical framework to assess trucking sector reforms, with an emphasis on the political economy and feasibility of implementation, and offers practical recommendations for policy makers. In doing so, the paper aims to provide guidance for future World Bank engagement in the sector. Its geographic coverage is limited to the major transport corridors in the region, selected based on their role in the region’s trade, availability of recent trucking sector data, and the past and current engagements of the World Bank.
This paper is deeply rooted into analytical work conducted by the SSATP on the legal and regulatory framework for transport, and on the trucking industry in West & Central Africa, mostly the total logistics costs study in West & Central Africa, the trucking surveys in Benin and Niger; outside of the region, with trucking surveys in East Africa; and continent-wide, with the Review of International Legal Instruments for the Facilitation of Transport and Trade in Africa. Its publication by the SSATP marks the launch of a regional effort in West Africa to build a template legal and regulatory framework for transport at national, bilateral and regional levels.