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African countries are embracing high-speed rail in their drive to integrate the continent, develop their economies and improve import and export speeds. Built to transport raw materials from the interior to a handful of ports, Africa’s ageing and neglected colonial-era railroad network — combined with poor cargo-handling facilities at ports and excessive red tape at many borders — until recently slowed inward-bound freight to the speed of a horse. But improvements in terminal capacity and efforts to reduce border bureaucracy and cut 90% of intra-African trade tariffs have improved the average time it takes for a consignment to get from port to consignee. This takes three days in SA, Nigeria, Algeria and Egypt, though Mauritania (32 days) and Chad (24) are the world’s worst. World Bank figures for container port traffic in Sub-Saharan Africa show a rise from 11.6-million large containers in 2010 to 15-million in 2014, before declining to 14.1-million in 2016. Countries that have buck...

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