West Africa comprises 25 different nations, big and small, onshore and offshore, including five landlocked countries. The total region encompasses around 9,700 kilometers of coastline and a land area of 12.75 million square kilometers. It accommodates over 535 million people, has a trade value of USD 294 billion and a GDP estimated at USD 802 billion.
The area is divided in three coastlines: North Atlantic-Mauritania to Liberia, Gulf of Guinea-Ivory Coast to Gabon, and South Atlantic-Congo to Angola. Each area has its own characteristics. For example, Gulf of Guinea and South Atlantic are heavily involved in the oil and gas sectors. This is clearly reflected in their economic performance.
The Gulf of Guinea region makes up for a share of 65% of population, 71% of GDP, 63% of trade and 56% of container throughput. It also houses the largest ports in terms of throughput, which are located in Togo, Nigeria and Ghana, in that order.On the way to maturity
West Africa is clearly moving into the direction of maturation, certainly if compared to East Africa. The ships are bigger, there are more carriers and there is a substantial presence of international port operators. In 2017, 285 box ships sailed the seven intercontinental trade lanes to West Africa. Deployed by twenty-four different operators, their average capacity was 3,300 TEU.
West African terminals and ports have benefitted from foreign investment by terminal operators and carriers driving growth. For that reason they are generally well equipped. Foreign terminal operators include APM Terminals, Bolloré, China Merchants Ports, DP World, ICTSI, Portek, TIL Group (MSC) and various carriers, such as CMA CGM in Cameroon and Nigeria, Grimaldi in Nigeria, and NileDutch in Angola
West Africa crude oil production shrank in 2015 and 2016 when the average price of crude oil plummeted. As a consequence, between 2013 and 2017, West African merchandise trade value shrank by one third to USD 294 billion. In particular Nigeria and Angola suffered, with both countries heavily dependent on the Oil & Gas industry. The only region to show absolute growth over the period was the North Atlantic region, generally the poorer cousin. Overall, West African container volumes have grown by 1.4% only in 2013-2017 period.