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Africa’s Top Sea Routes and How They Influence International Trade
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Africa’s Top Sea Routes and How They Influence International Trade

With over 90% of global trade going through the sea, Africa’s top sea routes play a vital role in helping the continent trade with itself and the world. Here are the four most important sea routes and how they influence international trade:

The Strait of Gibraltar

The Strait of Gibraltar between Morocco and Spain connects Africa, Europe, Asia, and the Americas and is a vital sea route through which over 100,000 ships pass every year. In addition to goods and commodities going across the Mediterranean, the strait is a major route through which oil and gas from the Middle East are transported. The Strait of Gibraltar is the world’s busiest shipping route after the English Channel, with over 300 ships going through every day, and is a strategic security point for international trade.

The Suez Canal

Egypt’s Suez Canal is route to 12% of international trade and 30% of global container traffic. It transports over $1 trillion of goods every year worth of energy, commodities, and consumer goods and represents a strategic entry and exit point for goods leaving and entering the Eastern flank of the African continent to Asia, Europe, and the Americas across the Mediterranean and the Red Sea. Over 50 ships cross the Suez canal every day. A study by Allianz suggests that global trade lost $6-10 billion every day the canal was blocked by the Ever Given cargo ship in 2021.


Bab el-Mandeb

Located between Djibouti, Eritrea, and Yemen, this gateway to the Red Sea links the Mediterranean with the Gulf of Aiden all through to the Indian Ocean. Its role is even more important because it links up to the Suez Canal. This route is a major asset to oil-exporters like Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern countries which push through millions of barrels a day to Europe and America. Bab el-Mandeb also opens up to trade across Southern Africa and the Indo-Pacific.

The Cape Route

The sea route through the Southern Coast of Africa doesn’t have as much traffic as it used to, but still provides the main connection for ships too big for the Suez Canal. It is also a cheaper alternative between the Atlantic and the Indian Ocean when fuel prices go down, with significantly less fees and traffic than the shorter Suez route.

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