Transport infrastructure, services and modes are among the necessary components to a competitive manufacturing industry which Ethiopia, in the eyes of sectors stakeholders, has been investing hugely in.
Among indicators which correlate trade competitiveness and transportation include, but not limited to, volume of freight and passenger, transportation cost and travel time. In terms of these criteria, Ethiopia is performing well, the stakeholders say.
Put another way, investment in transportation sector in general brings about changes/improvements in trip, cost and traffic patterns, states Jan Kiel et al. on their 2014 study, The Impact of Transportation on Competitiveness.
The attention given to the sector has impacted on the efficiency and effectiveness of the country’s competitiveness if one evaluates the case in relation to some of the indicators, Stakeholders in the transportation sector say.
Large volume of freight and passenger has been able to move to and from the country with reasonable cost and time.
Regarding maritime services, for instance, Ethiopian Shipping and Logistics Service Enterprise (ESLSE) has been taking various measures which have improved import-export businesses, Samuel Adal, ESLSE Public Relations and Communication Director told The Ethiopian Herald.
Over 151,568 tons of goods were exported through Djibouti port over the last six months of the current fiscal year, he adds.
Currently, the total container througput of the enterprise exceeded 388,092—meaning 3,760 vehicles have provided transportation services, and 78,332 tones of closed warehouse services have been provided to customers at inland ports and terminals, he indicates.
“The Enterprise has generated 716.3 million Birr profit before tax within the same period.”
Improving the standard of transport corridors, expanding and increasing inland ports and terminals to 14 from existing three as well as enhancing their capacity of supporting the growing import-export demand are the major objectives of GTP II, he mentions.
Modjo, Semera and Gelan inland ports and terminals are providing services in warehousing import-export containers.Other eight satellite inland ports and terminals are under construction at strategic places [near industrial parks and high agricultural production centers] like: Dire Dawa, Hawassa, Mekelle, Woreta and Kombolcha.
In addition to the transportation service improvement, the tasks accomplished in this area have contributed to the efficiency of the services.
For him, the commencement of Ethio-Djibouti railway and other huge highways, including Addis-Adama, would further boost the country’s trade competitiveness.
He underlines that his Office will keep on working jointly with stakeholders to reduce the import-export transit time by 50 percent, reduce the average waiting time at sea port from the current 40 days to three days, increase the national general cargo coverage through multi modal transport above 98 percent.
It goes without saying that road transport also plays important roles in facilitating competitiveness.
During GTP II, road upgrading, renovation, construction of new main [interconnecting] highways and pathways are the priorities of the authority,   says Samson Wondimu, Ethiopian Roads Authority (ERA) Communications Director.
“Over 1,206.4 Km main [interconnecting] roads upgrading, 1,163.2 Km  new main [interconnecting] roads as well as 31.3 Km expressway construction and 2,189.3 Km roads renovation have been accomplished during the last two years and six months period.”
Connecting the country in all directions with modern road infrastructure is part of the country’s aspiration to enhance smooth trade system and motivate domestic and foreign investors, he notes.
Another key factor that would further improve the country’s competitiveness is the Ethio-Djibouti railway, which has a capacity of lifting 3,500 tons of shipment at a time—cutting the several days travel to less than 10 hours.
Researches suggest that transport sector improvement alone is not responsible to improved trade competitiveness. But it serves competitiveness (Jan Kiel et al for instance).
But other factors like investment in the manufacturing sector and efficiency of the manufacturing industry contribute more to it.
Ethiopia has established various industrial parks and zones furnished with the necessary infrastructure.  Bole Lemi Industrial Zone, Hawassa Industrial Park, Eastern industrial and Velocity, Kembolcha Industrial Park, Mekele Industrial Park could be cases in point in this regard.
Only Bole Lemi Industrial Zone created jobs to 14, 000 people.
The number of job opportunities would increase as 9 sheds in Kembolcha Industrial Park and 15 sheds in Mekelle industrial parks are joined by investors recently, says Mekonnen Hailu, Ethiopian
Investment Commission Public Relations Head in an interview with this reporter
The government has given increasing priority to textile and apparel companies to invest in Ethiopia as they would absorb large number of labor, Mekonnen explains.
The transportation sector and manufacturing industries would feed on each other; hence, to increased competitiveness, he agrees, adding that the increasing investment in both areas would further flicker hopes by improving standard of living of rural and urban communities.  (Ethiopia Herald)