Jun 23, 2011

The barriers to trade and development, African style

Kinshasa (in the former Zaire, now DRC) and Brazzaville, in Congo, are twin cities separated by the Congo River (see Google map here). While they are twins, they are quite isolated from each other. I tried to get directions on Google maps from one city to the other but Google couldn’t do it. Here are key facts on the situation, courtesy of a new World Bank note:

  • Kinshasa-Brazzaville is the third largest urban agglomeration in Africa. It is predicted to become Africa’s largest, and the world’s 11th largest, city by 2025 (see its previous growth from outer space above)
  • Recorded Congo imports from the DRC are only 1.12% of total Congo imports in value terms.
  • Passenger traffic between Brazzaville and Kinshasa is smaller in relative terms than traffic between East and West Berlin in the times of the Berlin Wall.
  • Shipping local goods across the river is found to increase the retail price of these goods by one fifth.
  • 20,000 CFA francs (~$40) is the standard all-inclusive price to cross the river back and forth. Relative to local income, that’s as if San Francisco residents would pay between $1,200 and $2,400 for a return trip to Oakland, which is about the same distance.
  • Up to 17 agencies are reported to operate at the passenger port in Kinshasa.
  • Passenger crossing costs include One-way fare, Travel document (“laissez-passer”) at origin, Search (“jeton fouille”) at origin, Port fee (“redevance portuaire”) at origin, Vaccination card at origin, Various fees and taxes at destination.
This is the result of a total absence of political will for development. When will things ever change?

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