According to Dynamar, in 2017 the overall value of ESAF economies reached $737 billion, 1% less than the global economy.

  • South Africa is a dominant player as it holds the 60% of the total.
  • East Africa is rapidly developing from 34% to 40% in 2017.

Moreover, South Africa experienced a decrease of 5% in GDP from $367 billion in 2013 to $349 billion in 2017.

As Darron Wadey, the author of the report, commented the decrease is also due to the weak South African currency against the U.S. Dollar. Yet, Dynamar expects that in the five years following to 2022, the ESAF economy will grow by $268 billion to $1,006 billion, with South Africa set to return to sustained growth but at a lower rate.

The two largest ports continue to be Durban (2,700,000 TEU) in South Africa and Mombasa (1,190,000 TEU) in Kenya.

Mombasa port surpassed Cape Town port in 2011 and broke the million TEU mark in 2014. Durban and Mombasa handled 48% of total throughput in 2017.

Although there are a few private terminal operators in the region, DP World Berbera construction is underway. Ethiopia will get a new gateway, where DP World will hold the 51%, Somaliland 30% and Ethiopia the remaining 19%.

In the beginning of 2019, there were 18 different carriers offering container shipping services to and from the ESAf region. This is two fewer than in 2017 and is the lowest number noted by Dynamar in over a decade of review.  

ESAf is connected with the Far East, Middle East/Indian Subcontinent and Europe/Mediterranean trade areas.

Dynamar expects the containerized trade to reach 7 million TEU in 2022 as South Africa recovers from a difficult period.

In addition, East Africa is developing and expanding its influence. From 2013 to 2017, GDP increased by 25% at the expense of Southern Africa. It is the landlocked countries pushing GDP growth and not so much their coastal neighbors.

Indeed, Mombasa and Dar es Salaam compete for hinterland cargoes to Burundi, Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda in particular. State-controlled ports are under increasing pressure to improve and develop their strained infrastructure.

... Darron Wadey highlighted.

The East African coastline represents a useful example of the differences between export and import commodities. Exports are dominated by agricultural items and imports by materials used for development, equipment and machinery and vehicles.

Southern Africa, especially South Africa and Mozambique, plus Zimbabwe to a degree, is known for mining including precious stones and metals, and related bulk exports.

Furthermore, Djibouti is strategically located as it is circled by Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia, and offers access to the state of South Sudan.

The vessels calling at Djibouti deliver domestic cargo for Djibouti and gateway cargoes for Ethiopia or South Sudan. Around 95% of Ethiopian seaborne trade is moving through Djibouti.

Yet, when Eritrea gained independence in 1991, Ethiopia lost its direct access to the sea.

Consequently, Ethiopia is now vulnerable to the 'Djibouti Dilemma'.

But, since taking office in April 2018, the new Prime Minister has introduced reforms at home, improved relations with neighboring countries and signed the outstanding peace agreement between Ethiopia and Eritrea. Port and infrastructure projects are also being agreed and developed, but these require time, he says.