Monitoring congestion at border points: a possible model for Africa


The COVID-19 crisis has impacted strongly on road transport in Africa, with long queues at borders and trade proceeding at a slower pace almost everywhere all over the Continent. To keep freight moving freely and efficiently across the EU, the European Commission developed in 2020 the so-called ‘green lanes’, i.e. border crossings open to all freight vehicles carrying goods where any checks or health screenings should take, in principle, no more than 15 minutes. EU Member States have accepted to minimise the control procedures involved in crossing these border points by implementing a number of rules, and primarily two: 1) checks and controls at border posts need to be carried out without drivers having to leave their vehicles; 2) drivers of goods vehicles cannot be asked to produce any additional document other than their driving license and other personal ID and, if necessary, a letter from their employer, with the possibility of submitting them electronically to border agencies.

This system has been accompanied by the creation of a live portal allowing the monitoring of average border crossing times (both within the EU and with third countries), with an interactive map offering an overview of those border crossing points (including seaports) where delays are most significant, with the most congested border points indicated in the map with a red dot, as shown in the figure below.

To date, many corridor authorities in Africa have developed dashboards allowing the visualization of average cross-border waiting times along main road corridors in Africa. The Northern and Central Corridors are an example. Another project called Traffic Light System (TLS) has been developed by AUDA-NEPAD to assess congestions levels and the efficiency of transport corridors and One Stop Border Posts (OSBPs) located along some African corridors, mostly in Southern and West Africa. In addition, some private companies like the South African Globaltrack have developed fleet management systems that offer this service to their clients, which allows transport companies to optimize use of routes and increase vehicle utilization, reducing their overall operating costs.

All these systems, however, are limited to specific corridors.

In the perspective of the expected increase of Intra-African trade that the AfCFTA promises, Africa would tremendously benefit from a solution similar to the one developed by the EU, allowing the monitoring of congestion at border points over the entire Continent, especially if coupled with a system allowing drivers and transport companies to electronically book the date and time of visits by Customs and other border agencies based on their esteemed date of arrival at the border. This would enable transport and logistics companies to better plan their choices both in terms of roads and border posts/ ports to use in intra-Africa transport operations and of arrivals of trucks and ships to the points of entry and exit, accelerating their clearance without waiting in a queue. A model, therefore, to which Africa should aspire.